Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas(PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Saturday called for the scrapping of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) portion of 2018 budget for Fisheries Regulatory and Law Enforcement Program worth P697.7 million of the bureau’s P5.9 billion proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) on 2018.
The group said law enforcement program is to further BFAR’s arming of small fishermen assigned as bantay dagat or sea patrol whose task is to go after other fishermen who will be charged of being involved in illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing or in violation of the amended Fisheries Code. The group claims the campaign against illegal fishing actually results to vigilantism and abuse of authority in the sea.
PAMALAKAYA recalls the harassment incident of bantay dagat in Brgy. Papaya, Nasugbu, Batangas last July 17 where the latter beat, and forced 5 fishermen to jump off the water, resulting to 4 wounded casualties and 1 fisherman dead.
“Arming the fishermen and tasking them to become sea enforcers are alarming and disturbing. Instead of fishing nets, doing the usual fishing activities, fisherfolk who are assigned as sea patrols are loaded with arms, aiming towards other fishermen only to comply with BFAR’s mandate of curbing illegal fishing activities,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
PAMALAKAYA instead calls for the rechanneling of the budget to calamity and disaster resiliency in order for the bureau to be able to quickly provide economic aid and rehabilitation to the fisherfolk who will become victims of the future natural disasters like typhoons, earthquakes, storm surges and other ecosystem disturbances such as red tide, fish kills, among others.
“Being the front-line casualties of natural calamities, it is more important to parcel out huge chunk of BFAR’s yearly budget to disaster response and rehabilitation instead of devoting their agency to useless program like law enforcement that actually makes no help in the productivity of the fisherfolk,” ended Hicap. ###