BFAR’s appointment of fishers to act as directors for May is “corny and cheap publicity gimmick”, says fishers group

BFAR’s appointment of fishers to act as directors for May is “corny and cheap publicity gimmick”, says fishers group

“Corny and cheap publicity gimmick”.

This was how the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) described the appointment of 17 fisherfolk leaders as national and regional directors by Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for this month, which is declared a Fisherfolk Month by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the fisheries bureau.

Last week BFAR said fisherfolk elected 17 leaders to lead the national and 16 regional bureaus with Felizardo Lim from Cavite as this year’s national director. He will lead 16 other regional fisherfolk directors, three of them are women.

The regional directors elected were Joel Parurug of the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR), Benjamin Cabacungan (Region 1), Lupo Alava (Region 2), Salvacion Ruiz (Region 3), Edison Jaramillo (Region IV-A), Charles Ramal (Region IV-B), Marco Visperas (Region 5), Maximo Salavante (Region 6), Juanito Obispo (Region 7), Quinciano Galagar (Region 8), Salud Cruz (Region 9), Decie Bazar (Region 10), Natividad Gunayan (Region 11), Eduardo Casas (Region 12), Isidro Pamonag (Region 13) and Ustadz Jamad Hairol of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The fisherfolk directors under the “Mangingisdang Direktor” program of BFAR took their oath of office last May 4 in Cagayan de Oro City and will serve until the end of this month.

But Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the program was nothing but a publicity image building for agriculture secretary Arthur Yap and BFAR Director Malcolm Sarmiento, adding that the fisherfolk directors will only serve as figureheads, contrary to reports that they will act independently and with dispatch in accordance to the collective interest of marginalized fisherfolk all over the country.

“The fisherfolk directors from the national to the regional levels will merely perform front act performances for the decision makers in the fisheries sector which is dictated by transnational and local fishing monopolies across the country. The fisherfolk directors don’t have decision making powers and will just act accordingly to the corporate agenda of Malacañang’s fishing clients, period, period, period,” he added.

The Pamalakaya leader said agriculture secretary Yap and BFAR’s Sarmiento are exploiting the program by dictating to fisherfolk leaders on the government’s real agenda in fishery sector, which is to stop small fishers from fish capture activities and shift to aquaculture or fish farming.

“The government is blaming small fisherfolk using motorized and non-motorized boats on the exploitation of the country’s fishing waters and forcing the issue by calling them to leave the sea and start fish farming for an export-bane aquatic program,” he said.

“ This is an insult to the small fisherfolk, because the real exploiters of the country’s fishing waters are the foreign and local commercial fishing sectors which are overtly and covertly protected by their benefactors in Malacañang and local government units,” added Hicap.

However, Pamalakaya challenged the 17 fisherfolk directors to pursue the P 32-billion production subsidy they proposed to the agriculture department since last year. The group had previously suggested a minimum P 4,500 oil subsidy for all small fishermen operating small fishing boats and P 2,000 for non-motorized small fishing boat owners across-the-country in response to the increasing cost of production in fish capture activity.

“If the fisherfolk directors want to be useful and meaningful to their poor colleagues in 16 regions, we dare them to approve the P 32-billion production subsidy. Let them challenge the bureaucrats who put them there as figureheads and sugar coaters for Malacañang, DA and BFAR,” the group said.

The P 4,500 monthly subsidy constitutes about 50 percent of the monthly expenses spent by marginalized fishermen owning a small fishing boat in their daily fish capture. Hicap said the proposed measure if approved will benefit 313,985 small fishing boat operators and will cost the government a monthly production subsidy of P 1.4 billion per month or P 16 billion per year.

Based on Pamalakaya’s proposal for production subsidy, for non-motorized fishing boats operators, the government will spend monthly subsidy of P1.3 billion or roughly P 15.67 billion per year. All in all, the total subsidy for a little over small fishermen will cost he government some P 32 billion in total production subsidies annually.

The group said 100 percent of the production subsidy for fisherfolk operators of small fishing boats will go to oil, while around 50 percent of the proposed subsidy for owners of non-motorized fishing boats will go to gas subsidy, while the rest will go to other production and food needs of small fishermen.

Pamalakaya said the production subsidies for small fishermen could be addressed by immediately and indefinitely suspending the annual payments of foreign and domestic debts that eats up more than one-third of the annual national budget.

“The proposed fishery production subsidy program is about 10 percent of the national government’s allotment to debt servicing. It would be better if we suspend if not totally stop paying these fraudulent loans acquired and accumulated by the previous and present administrations for their own corruption purposes,” the group added. #

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