Fishers still fish, park boats outside homes in Laguna Lake

Fishers still fish, park boats outside homes in Laguna Lake

By Billy Javier-Reyes, correspondent, The Pamalakaya Times

Despite the abnormal rise in water level of Laguna Lake caused by typhoon Ondoy, small fishermen in 9 towns of Rizal and 18 towns of Laguna continue their day-to-day fish catch activities, leaving their families inside flooded houses and designated evacuation centers, and their boats?—they are just parked near the doors of their respective homes or in places near the evacuation centers where their families are temporarily sheltered.

“The relief goods from the Department of Social Work and Development and from local government units are not sufficient for their families to survive. They have to continue fishing and sell their catch at an average of P 40 per kilo to make sure they have something to eat and buy medicines for their sick children and other members of the family,” said Rey Manangan, coordinator of the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in Rizal province.

He said the average fish catch in the aftermath of typhoon Ondoy is between 5 to 10 kilos, a slight increase from 3 kilos to 5 kilos of average fish catch prior to the arrival of tropical storm and this is mainly due to overflowed fishpens in Laguna Lake.

However, the Pamalakaya coordinator said small fisherfolk do not consider the increase in fish catch as blessing since the impact of storm Ondoy is totally devastating compared to the sudden increase in the daily fish catch due to overflowed and destroyed fishpens.

Manangan added: “The government is treating our Laguna Lake fisherfolk like children of lesser God, as if they do not exist. The lake fishers are compelled to go fishing despite the extremely dangerous situation posed by the alarming state of the lake. They have to brave the rising rough waters in the lake because of government neglect, because of state abandonment of its responsibilities to respond to the urgent needs and emergency situation.”

The Pamalakaya coordinator confirmed reports that water in Laguna Lake rose to 3.4 meters to 14 meters or 10 feet deep higher, a situation that happened 90 years ago. In 1919, water level in the lake recorded a sharp increase to 14.5 meters.

Manangan who went to Talim Island last Monday to check the situation of Pamalakaya members in the island, said fishermen now park their fishing boats outside their houses, and the fishing communities remain without power supply.

Initial reports reaching Pamalakaya headquarters in Quezon City said in Talim Island, a total of 145 households representing the fishing barangays of Ticulio and Pipindan were affected and are still submerged in deep waters. There was no report of any relief operations conducted in said barangays, which is some 30 to 45 minutes boat ride from Binangonan proper.

Reports also said in Tayuman and Tagpos, all in Binangonan town, a total of 250 fishing households were affected by typhoon Ondoy roughly 1,000 lakeshore residents. Pamalakaya said many of them are currently housed in evacuation centers.

Pamalakaya vice-chairperson Salvador France, confirmed no relief goods were delivered to affected fishing families in Talim Island.

“No relief goods have been delivered to Talim Island. People are crying for immediate help from the national government and local government units in Rizal since Sunday. What we have here are huge billboards promoting Palace infrastructure projects in Binangonan and other parts of Rizal province say “GMA cares”, but there is no truth to that. The truth is Mrs. Arroyo does not care, the word care just exists in her towering propaganda billboards for her own image building and we cannot eat billboards, can we?,” said France.

The Pamalakaya official said there are 18,000 small fisherfolk families in Laguna Lake and they are found in 9 coastal towns of Rizal and 18 towns of Laguna Lake, excluding towns and cities in the National Capital Region like Pasig, Pateros, Muntinlupa and Taguig. He said over 500,000 lake folk population are affected by typhoon Ondoy.

In order to address the urgent needs of affected farmers and fisherfolk in Rizal province and other ravaged provinces—Laguna, Batangas, Cavite and Quezon in Southern Tagalog, Bataan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Aurora in Central Luzon, the KMP and Pamalakaya coalesced with other rural-based organizations like the Unyon ng Mga Mangagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the Amihan peasant women federation, the student support group Nnara-Youth and the church-based Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and formed its own relief network for typhoon Ondoy victims known as Oplan Sagip Kanayunan-Balsa.

Organizers said Oplan Sagip Kanayunan-Balsa will lead rural-based groups in soliciting relief goods and material assistance for farmers and fishermen in two regions affected by storm Ondoy. They said the national offices of Pamalakaya, KMP and Amihan will serve as drop off centers for relief and material support and cash donations for rural people victimized by tropical storm Ondoy. #

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