A bill seeking to distribute financial and production support amounting to P15,000 to at least one million small fisherfolks in the country has been filed in Congress.
This, as the income of small fishermen already went down to as low as P150 per fishing trip more than a year into the pandemic.
In a statement, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) backed the said bill, which aims to “pump-prime the wheels of production” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filed by the Makabayan legislators on Monday, the House Bill (HB) no. 9192 stated at least 1 million Filipinos employed in the fisheries and aquatic sector, as recorded by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), shall directly receive the amount of P15,000 for production and livelihood expenses.
For its part, PAMALAKAYA urged the House legislators to urgently tackle the bill as small fisherfolks, regarded as the country’s poorest of the poor, are in dire need of production subsidy to recover from their loss within the year of pandemic.
The subsidy will likewise help small fisherfolks to keep pace with the rising demand for foods within the areas under strict lockdown measures.
Based on the group’s estimates, the income of small fisherfolks since the pandemic hit the country last year decreased from the pre-pandemic average of P300-P500 per fishing operation under normal weather conditions to an average of P150 per fishing trip.
“We appeal to the legislators in the House of Representatives to act on this bill as urgent in the name of mitigating the devastating impacts of the pandemic to the country’s poorest sector who also happens to be one of the front-liners for food security,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson, said.
“The economic crises brought about by the pandemic and the government’s failed response inflict too much hardship on us,” he added.
Hicap also noted that the fisherfolks are “not begging but we are asserting by rights that marginalized fisherfolks should immediately receive direct livelihood assistance to continue with the wheels of production and get back on our feet”.
Two weeks ago, food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan asked the government to include fish products in the distribution of food relief during the implementation of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and nearby areas.
This is to help fishermen have a sure market during the ECQ period, as well as give consumers enough source of protein during this difficult time.
The ECQ was put in place amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Asis Perez, convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan and former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) director, said the demand for fish products coming from restaurants has not yet picked up since last year when lockdown restrictions were first imposed.