Typhoons-hit fishermen wary over January-February critical period

Published November 23, 2020, 1:44 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Fishermen in Bicol region, which was badly hit by Ulysses and Rolly, are worried that if they won’t be able to recover from the recent typhoons fast enough and fix their boats, they will stay hungry until February next year.

Lagonoy Gulf Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (IFARMC) Chair Arnel Boholst said that because of northeast monsoon or amihan, which normally brings strong waves, January and February will be a “critical period” for fishermen that were hit by recent typhoons.    

“In our area, it will be amihan during those times. We don’t see any help from the government arriving during that period because all the help will be exhausted now and will be used in other things,” Boholst told reporters during Tugon Kabuhayan’s virtual bi-monthly Food Security Forum.

“During amihan, it’s rare to see the waves calming down. A lot of fishermen can’t fish because of that. And normally, during the end of the year, we don’t receive any support from the government anymore as well as from the private sector,” he further said.

Lagonoy Gulf is a large gulf in the Bicol Peninsula of Luzon. During the past typhoons, particularly Rolly and Ulysses, nearly 2,000 boats in Lagonoy Gulf alone were damaged.

Asis Perez, convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan, said the government must act fast to be able to help fishermen get back on their feet and so that they can start fishing before the January to February critical period wherein they won’t be able to fish at all. 

“The help must reach the fishermen as soon as possible,” Perez said.

As of Friday last week, the total damage and losses incurred by the agriculture sector due to Ulysses alone already reached P4.03 billion, affecting 102,500 farmers and fisherfolk.

Of the total damage, P712 million worth of damage were sustained in fisheries, particularly fin fish, milkfish, hito, tilapia, carp, prawn, and crabs.

Tugon Kabuhayan is an advocacy group helping Filipino farmers by promoting domestic production, food safety and security and environmental protection, among others.

Charlie Capricho, leader of Pederasyon ng mga Mangingisda sa San Miguel Bay, which is also a large bay in the Bicol Peninsula, said that only few fishermen are able to fish now because a lot of them are still preoccupied fixing their boats, which were destroyed by the typhoons.

He also lamented the lack of government support when it comes to helping the fishermen bring their catch to the market.

“We really need to be able to bring our catch to the market and to the Kadiwa centers of DA [Department of Agriculture]. We need transportation,” Capricho said.

According to him, it is the fishermen’s inability to bring their own catch to the market that is causing the retail prices to go up.

“For Abo [a local fish only found in Bicol], we sell it to traders for P150 per kilogram [/kg], but that is being sold for P280/kg in the markets. For Burao, that’s being sold in the markets for P250/kg, double the farm-gate price. Fishermen are really at the losing end,” Capricho said.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said its rehabilitation and recovery plans of the farm sector are already being processed for funding under the agency’s Quick Response Fund (QRF).

To be specific, the agency had already set aside P6 billion from its QRF to implement emergency interventions in areas affected by Ulysses, Rolly, and Quinta.

Over the weekend, Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Montemayor told Business Bulletin that the next four to five months will be tough for the country’s food producers – especially farmers and fishermen – since the effect of the recent typhoons, especially Ulysses and Rolly, to the agriculture sector will definitely “spillover” up until next year.