22 years of fisheries liberalization: Anakpawis calls to scrap Fisheries Code, for a new, genuine fisheries reform law

22 years of fisheries liberalization
Anakpawis calls to scrap Fisheries Code, for a new, genuine fisheries reform law

Manila, Philippines – Members of Anakpawis Party-list from Metro Manila and Cavite joined the “Climate Strike” led by the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) at Mendiola bridge, Manila, marking the 22nd year of the Fisheries Code of 1998. The protest demanded for the Duterte regime’s “climate action” against rising seas and reclamation projects that destroy marine life and mangrove forest that serves as natural defense line against flooding and storm surges.

“The Fisheries Code of 1998 may fall as a candidate to be the most inaappropriate law in the country. We are composed of more than 7,000 islands, more than 200 million hectares of territorial waters, around 60% of the population are either located or related at fisheries areas, but we have this law, that pushes aquaculture or the capital-intensive and ecosystem hazard sub-sector, than open sea fishing, including the municipal fishing grounds and the exclusive economic zone,” Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao, Anakpawis Party-list former representative who joined the protest, said in a press statement.

Based on government data, aquaculture, from 2010 to 2018 period, has already reached more than half of the total fisheries production, from being only at 32% from 1991 to 1997, prior the law. The country produced 970,000 and 990,000 metric tons of fishery products in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

“Since 2010, fisheries sector growth rate has been stagnant, and sometimes negative. Even aquaculture fell from its average growth rate of 11% in 2003 to 2010, to 4% in 2011 to 2018. Worse, import dependency on fish products are increasing,” he said.

He cited that the Duterte government is actually undermining self-sufficiency by promoting import liberalization such as the 17,000 and 45,000 metric tons of galunggong in 2018 and 2019.

“The Fisheries Code-imposed fish bans are so undemocratic that it could abruptly throw poor fishermen into indebtedness, poverty and hunger, while these allow big commercial fishing vessels’ over-exploitation and even illegal poaching operations of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea,” he slammed.

Casilao earlier denounced the Palawan Council for Sustainable Dev’t Administrative Order No. 5 (PCSD AO5) that prohibits poor fishermen from catching “lapu-lapu” in April to June.

“The Fisheries Code enabled the Palawan local government to oppress poor fishermen, bar them from catching lapu-lapu on the very period they could, during calm waters. The set open season is typhoon season and with northeast monsoon, when only big commercial fishing vessels could operate,” he elaborated.

“The Fisheries Code is an epic failure, that downgrades the already ‘poorest of the poor’ fisherfolk sector into poorer. This should be urgently repealed and replaced with a nationalist and democratic fisheries program,” he said.

Anakpawis has been finalizing its draft Genuine Fisheries and Aquatic Reform Bill (GFARB) that mainly pushes for sustainable fishing and protection of fishing rights of poor fisherfolk in the country. It also proposes the serious public investment to the sector, primarily for the utilization of the exclusive economic zone as a national fishing ground and protection from plunder and destruction by foreign countries such as China.

“The Fisheries Code acts like a wild shark against poor fisherfolk, but a friendly dolphin to China and big commercial fishing and aquaculture operators. It is undemocratic and anti-Filipino. We call on the more than 1 million Filipinos working in the fisheries sector to join the call to repeal the law,” he ended. ###

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