Fisherfolk activists to Secretary Yap: “What fish shortage?”

Pamalakaya slammed P 25-million bailout to big fishpen operators
Fisherfolk activists to Secretary Yap: “What fish shortage?”

The national chairperson of the left-wing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday questioned the statement of agriculture secretary Arthur Yap that folks of Metro Manila will face fish shortage unless the government do something to avert it.

“What fish shortage this senatorial wannabe is talking about? He is justifying the release of P 25-million in taxpayers money to be able to bailout Northern Luzon based big fishpen operators,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

Yap over the weekend said the P 25-million support fund for the rehabilitation of wrecked fish cages in Pangasinan and La Union should be released soon because any delay in rehabilitating the fish cages could affect fish supply and fish prices in Metro Manila.

“That’s mind boggling and absurd. There’s enough supply of fish in the National Capital Region despite typhoon Emong which recently hit the country. He is just buying the political patronage of large-scale fishpen operators in the North. This Northern offensive is part of image building in connection with Yap’s plan to join the senatorial race in 2010,” said Hicap.

The agriculture department said fishpen operators in Pangasinan and La Union incurred losses estimated at around P 500 million or 6,000 metric tons which represent 3.7 percent of the regional annual production budget of fish stocks for 2009. It said Pangasinan and La Union accounts for 120 metric tons of bangus supply to Metro Manila.

“Secretary Yap is only after the welfare of big fishpen operators. For him the small fishermen are nothing and they don’t deserve the attention of this elitist agriculture official. Let us see where he will see himself in the 2010 national elections,” the Pamalakaya leader warned.

Last week, Pamalakaya pressed the Macapagal-Arroyo government to set aside at least P 20-billion for the victims of typhoon “Emong” and for the quick rehabilitation of agricultural lands, infrastructures and power lines destroyed at the height of the strong typhoon that hit the country, mostly several provinces in Central and Northern Luzon.

Pamalakaya vice-chair for Luzon Salvador France said they proposed a minimum of P 10,000 and a maximum of P 20,000 production subsidy per fishing and farming family in areas hardly affected by typhoon Emong namely Pangasinan, La Union, Nueva Viscaya, Bataan, Zambales, Ifugao, Isabela, Cagayan, and Benguet.

“This will help farmers and fisherfolk to resume the wheel of agricultural and fishery production made idle by typhoon Emong. The granting of subsidy could last for one to two months or even several months depending on the time and resources needed to accomplish the relief and rehabilitation process. And to the national and local government units and agencies—please don’t use the occasion for corruption and all-out pocketing of taxpayers money,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

Under Pamalakaya’s proposal the small fisherfolk in the province of Pangasinan will get at least P 4 billion from the P 20-billion relief and rehabilitation fund, while La Union, Nueva Viscaya, Bataan, Zambales, Ifugao, Isabela, Cagayan and Benguet will get P 2 billion each.

France suggested that the funds for victims of typhoon Emong should be closely monitored by anti-corruption watchdogs and independent groups including the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to make sure all government units will implement the relief and rehabilitation undertakings without any shade of corruption and politicking.

The Pamalakaya leader said their members in Bataan, Zambales, Pangasinan and La Union were affected by typhoon Emong and will undertake campaign that will require the regional offices and provincial of the Department of Agriculture, including provincial and municipal governments to provide quick production subsidy assistance for victims of typhoon Emong.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported last week the death toll from typhoon Emong rose to 33 after seven more fatalities were reported in the provinces of Pangasinan and Ifugao.

The NDCC also said Emong destroyed close to P 380 million worth of crops, infrastructure and power lines, P 371 million of this represent destroyed crops and agricultural fields. But in Pangasinan, Anda Mayor Nestor Pulido said in his town, fishery losses could reach P 1 billion accounting for hundreds of fishpens and fish cages swept away at the height of typhoon Emong. #

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