As government’s plan to import pelagic fishes faced strong criticism, House Deputy Speaker and Buhay partylist Rep. Lito Atienza said this Department of Agriculture decision can be placed on the backdrop of President Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to deliver on a campaign promise.
Atienza, who is running for vice president, said Laguna de Bay has remained to be practically owned by big businesses that have forced poor fisherfolk out of their only means of livelihood.
“I will never forget in his first State of the Nation Address in 2016, when he promised to rid and clean Laguna de Bay of these fish pens and fish cages because, he said, this important body of water is owned by each and every Filipino and everyone should benefit from it, not just the rich and powerful,” recalled Atienza, a former secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.
“I don’t know why President Duterte did not do anything to deliver his campaign promise,” the House official lamented in a press statement issued Thursday, Jan. 20.
Atienza said Laguna de Bay, the biggest freshwater lake in Asia, used to supply Luzon and the rest of the country with fish.
“But today, you cannot fish from Laguna de Bay because it has been monopolized by the big fish pens and fish cages owned by powerful and rich businessmen, and many are even owned by foreigners,” the partylist solon noted.
He addded: “I cannot understand why the government has allowed Laguna de Bay to be the fishing ground for big businesses while the poor fisherfolk around the lake have been deprived of their basic livelihood.” On DA’s plan to import fish possible from China and other Philippine neighbors, Atienza has this to say: “I will not be surprised if the fish we are importing all came from our own Philippine waters.” “Can you not see the irony? Fish that is caught in our waters are brought to China and then Chinese businessmen offer the same to sell to the Philippines and our government is buying it at a higher cost,” stated the former Manila mayor.