Fishermen appeal for systematic gov’t solution

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

The country’s fishing sector – beset by a series of oil price hikes and declining output over the past years – had sought for an “extensive and systematic” government solution.

The appeal came from a group of small fisherfolks, who said they will be “at the losing end” if the country’s fisheries output will continue to go down.

"The continued decline of fisheries output over the years obviously pose impacts to the small fishers as they are the subsector seen to have a low productivity," Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) National Chairperson Fernando Hicap said.

Hicap said that small and subsistence fisherfolks are already battered with various issues such as costly production “due to policies that induce inflation, degrading marine and aquatic resources caused by exploitation of big-fishing firms on municipal waters.”

"The fisherfolk sector is still considered as the country's poorest among the poor, and yet there is no significant program for our fisherfolk that will foster and develop their mode of production. Worst, they are often threatened with displacement due to privatization and conversion projects in coastal communities," Hicap said.

Latest report from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the country’s fisheries production fell below 1 million metric tons (MT) during the first quarter of the year, from 1.01 million MT to 980,730 MT.

Of total output, 26.5 percent came from the municipal fisheries subsector, which registered a 3.4 percent decrease in catch from 269,180 MT to 260,050 MT, while the commercial fisheries, which accounts for the 21.7 percent of the total production, only went down by 2.2 percent from 217,810 MT to 213,110 MT.

"The dramatic decrease of fishing output reflects the government's failure to uplift the lives of the fisherfolk in the country," he added.

The country’s small fishermen operate on very limited production, both on preharvest and post-harvest activities, because of the implementation of COVID-19 lockdown.

This, as small fisherfolks are particularly unable to go farther than their municipal fishing grounds due to quarantine restrictions. There were also incidents where fishermen were apprehended by maritime authorities for allegedly violating quarantine protocols.