Congress to probe impact of fisheries laws in Caraga

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 Oct) – The continued decline of fish catch volume that has greatly affected the fisherfolk in Caraga and the implementation of fisheries laws that allegedly devastated the livelihood of ordinary fishermen in the region while benefitting the large-scale fishing industry have prompted some party-list legislators to conduct an investigation.

The House Committee on Aquaculture and Fisheries Resources is initiating the probe, noting that “the 1989 daily catch of 20 kilograms [in Caraga’s waters] alarmingly fell to 1 to 2 kilograms at present.”

MindaNews obtained last Monday a copy of House Resolution number 1316 submitted to Congress last Sept. 18.

The representatives who endorsed the conduct of investigation are Ariel B. Basilao of Anakpawis, Carlos Isagani T. Zarate of Bayan Muna, Antonio L. Tinio and France L. Castro both of ACT Teachers, Emmi A. de Jesus and Arlene D. Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party, and Sarah Jane I. Elago of Kabataan.

The resolution noted that as far as small open-sea fishing is concerned, fisherfolks are “using pasol or bingwit (fishing rod) for lapu-lapu, dalagang bukid, bulis, tamban, kurob (matang baka) and galungong.”

In contrast, the large-scale fishing industry uses destructive and exploitative fishing gears like hulbot-hulbot or Danish Seine, Rogelio de Asis, leader of Pamalakaya-Caraga, said in a statement that supported the House Resolution.

According to Fernando Hicap, former Anakpawis party-list representative and national chairperson of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas, an NGO for fisherfolks in the Philippines, said the implementation of the Republic Act No. 8550 (otherwise known as the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998) and its amendments under the Republic Act 10654 devastated the livelihood of fisherfolk in the region, as well as across the country.

Hicap said the Fisheries Code and its amendments mainly affected small fisherfolks with its provision on excessive taxes and fees, strict restrictions and fishing regulations attacking fisherfolks.

“The strict implementation of these laws are imposed by Local Government Units on small fisherfolks while large commercial fishing vessels and fleets are freely encroaching the 15-kilometer municipal fishing waters,” he pointed out.

Hicap noted that indigent fisherfolks remain neglected as they continue to be excluded as beneficiaries of government services and programs such as distribution of boats, fingerlings, gears and other fishing equipment they gravely need.

Leopoldo Pelinta, leader of Pamalakaya-Surigao del Norte, lamented that political officials and influential individuals use their own discretion on identifying beneficiaries of government programs.

De Asis noted that the Bantay Dagat of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) “is ineffective to prevent the entry of large-scale commercial fishing fleets within the 15-kilometer municipal fishing waters that use destructive and exploitative fishing gears like hulbot-hulbot or Danish Seine,” he said. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)