Monthly Archives: February 2010

30-boat fluvial protest kicked off despite Tsunami alert

By Pepsi La Loma

Legazpi City, Albay- Despite of the Tsunami alert brought about by the 8.8 killer earthquake in Chile yesterday, fisherfolk activists belonging to Lakas ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisda ng Bicol (Lambat-Bicol) staged on Sunday a 30-boat fluvial parade to demand the next elected president to pursue the repeal of the 12-year old Fisheries Code of 1998.

“While we consider the tsunami alert this morning and early afternoon, we still went on with our 30-boat fluvial protest against Fisheries Code of 1998. A potential tsunami will not stop us from delivering our political and electoral message today. We will strongly ask the next elected President of the Philippine Republic to certify as urgent the repeal of Fisheries Code of 1998. It is time to end this 12-year old running nightmare,” said Salvador France, chair of Lambat-Bicol and the vice-chairperson of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

“The next President should also call on Congress to craft a new fisheries law that will uphold the collective rights of millions of fisherfolk and will protect the seas from big time exploiters and first-rate profiteers in the backward fishing industry. A tsunami of protest awaits the next President if he fails to correct an injustice known as Fisheries Code of 1998,” added France.

The anti-Fisheries Code fluvial parade kicked off this morning and passed several coastal barangays of the towns of Bacacay, Pag-asa, Sto. Domingo and culminated in Legazpi City harbor in Albay province, with fisherfolk leaders and activists on board of fishing boats chanting “Fisheries Code of 1998, Ibasura!” (Junk Fisheries Code of 1998!) as they crossed coastal barangays on their way to the main wharf in the region’s main capital.

France said the protest ended at 12:00 noon, or an hour earlier set by Philvocs on the possible effect of the killer earthquake in Chile to nations along the Pacific belt. Nineteen coastal provinces all over the country are facing the Pacific stretch where tidal waves are expected to occur. But early this evening, Philvocs cancelled the alert level it earlier raised.

Prior to the 30-boat fluvial parade in Bicol, anti-Fisheries Code protests were staged by Pamalakaya and its regional and provincial chapters this month. On Feb.9 and Feb.10, and Feb.23 lake fisherfolk in Laguna Lake staged caravans demanding for the immediate scrapping of the fisheries law.

On Feb.25, some 100 Pamalakaya members from Cebu, Bohol and Negros kicked off a swim protest in Mactan Channel in Cebu City to demand the immediate repeal of the 12-year old controversial fisheries law.

The law passed by Congress in 1998, three months before the 1998 presidential election was largely blamed by fisherfolk organizations all over the Philippines for the sorry state of local fisheries in the country.

France said the Fisheries Code of 1998 is more of a lip service rather than a legacy on empowerment for the 1.4 million small fisherfolk and 10 million of their direct dependents.

The activist fisherfolk leader noted that while the 12-year fisheries act recognized the preferential rights of small fishermen to use the 15-kilometer municipal fishing ground, it also allows commercial fishing vessels to penetrate municipal fishing areas by virtue of a provision that once a municipal fishing area is more than 7-fathoms deep, commercial fishing operators are allowed to come in and capture fish to the detriment of small fishermen.

France lamented Fisheries Code of 1998 also enhanced the privatization of communal fishing grounds and coastal communities through the controversial Fishpond Lease Agreement and Foreshore Lease Agreement (FLAs) where big business is allowed to transform fishing areas into fishpond and aquaculture ponds, put up eco-tourism projects and export-oriented undertakings.

He said the 12-year old fish law reduced scope of fishing areas due to imposition of restrictive measures such as color coding and zoning ordinances that prevent small fishermen from going to one municipal fishing town to another. On the other hand, the government courtesy of the Fisheries Code imposed burdensome taxes and fees on fishers’ boats and gears, including multiple fees on simple violations of the code.

Lambat-Bicol and Pamalakaya said the 12-year old fisheries law merely transformed small fisherfolk into sidekicks of law enforcers. As members of Bantay Dagat, small fisherfolk are employed to watch and monitor their small fisherfolk colleagues suspected of engaging in dynamite and illegal fishing, while authorities let go the big fish engaged in bigger crimes against the fisherfolk and environment.

Pamalakaya said the repeal of the Fisheries Code of 1998 will be presented as an electoral agenda during the presidential forum billed Pamalakaya Fisherfolk Academy 2010 edition, which the group will call next month.

In 2004, Pamalakaya and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) had a joint presidential forum which was attended by the late Fernando Poe Jr. In 2007, Pamalakaya called the first edition of the fisherfolk academy but only San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito, who was rumored to be running for senatorial election that time attended the fisherfolk forum.

Pamalakaya said invitations will be off this week and will be sent to Nacionalista Party (NP) standard bearer Sen. Manuel Villar, Liberal Party presidential bet Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, Lakas-Kampi merger party bet Gilbert Teodoro, former President Joseph Estrada of Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and independent candidates Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas Movement, Senator Richard Gordon, Olongapo councilor JC de los Reyes and environmentalist Nicanor Perlas. #

Fluvial protesters demand social justice for small fishermen

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Militant group proposed P 10K subsidy for poor fishing families in Red Tide, Fish kill areas

By Chocolate Moose Fernandez and Trinity Biglang Awa

Manila, Philippines-The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) proposed on Friday the allocation of P 10,000 per month economic and production subsidy to fishing families affected by red tide and fish kill, which are attributed to the ongoing dry spell brought about El Nino phenomenon.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the proposed 10 thousand peso economic and production subsidy for each poor fisherfolk affected by El Nino would keep production alive and would enable small fishermen to go on fish capture beyond the 15-kilometer municipal fishing ground which is currently scarce for fish due to extreme heat.

“The P 10,000 subsidy per month for fisherfolk in red tide and fish kill areas would help to keep the wheels of production on the go, aside from providing immediate relief to poor fishing families,” added Hicap.

The Pamalakaya chair said the government should mobilize the P 1.7 billion El Nino budget allotted last year and the calamity funds of provincial and local government units to provide relief to red tide and fish kill stricken areas all over the country.

The fisherfolk leader also urged senators and congressmen to donate their remaining salaries from March 1 to June 30, including unspent portions of their pork barrel to fisherfolk and farmer victims of El Nino.

Hicap said the public could generate P 40,425 each from each district congressman. If there are 220 district congressmen, the fund which could be raised would be P 8,893,500 per month or
P 35.57 million for four months. There are 23 senators at present, and each senator also receives
P 40,425 per month or P 929,775 for all senators. If they senators decide to donate their salaries to El Nino victims, the amount that can be generated from senators’ salaries for next four months would be
P 3,719,100.

“If there are 243 congressmen and senators who will donate at least P 20 million of their remaining pork barrel for the year, that would amount to P 4.86 billion, excluding their salaries. All in all, the combined salaries and donated pork barrel would amount to over P 5-billion which could be of big help to affected farmers and fishermen,” the Pamalakaya official said.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Thursday reported cases of fish kill in Magat River where fishermen reported 30 tons of cultured tilapia due to prolong dry spell and absent of rainfall over the last three months. The fish skill sent the price of tilapia down from P 50 per kilo to P 30 per kilo. The bureau is also monitoring possible fish kills occurrences in several fishpond towns of Pangasinan—Dagupan City, Sual, Bolinao and Anda, which recorded cases of fish kills during the times of El Nino and period of extreme heat.

Aside from Pangasinan, BFAR is also monitoring possible occurrence of fish kills in fishpond areas in Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, Pampanga, Bataan and Bulacan provinces in Central Luzon.

The fishery agency also predicted an increase in the incidence of red tide in the country in the coming months. He identified the areas of Manila Bay encompassing Bataan, Bulacan, parts of the National Capital Region and Cavite province, Sorsogon Bay in Sorsogon, Murcielagos Bay in Misamis Occidental, Dumanquillas Bay in Zamboanga del Sur, and Bislig Bay in Surigao del Sur as contaminated with red tide.

Pamalakaya said the identified areas where fish kills and red tide regularly occur should be the immediate focus of P 10,000 economic and production subsidy grant, but other fishing areas should also be covered and the amount would be different since it is a case to case basis. However, the group proposed that in areas where there are no cases of red tide and fish kills, but affected by reduced catch due to El Nino, the government could provide P 4,500 for production subsidy per month to small fishers operating motorized boats and P 2,500 for fisherfolk operating non-motorized boats.

Earlier, Pamalakaya, Anakpawis party list and Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) submitted a 5-point Omnibus demand to Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) that would cushion the impact of El Nino to small fisherfolk and urban poor communities situated along the lake.

The 5-point Omnibus Demand presented to LLDA General Manager Edgar Manda includes supply of 1 sack of rice per family for free beginning March to July this year.

The proposal submitted to LLDA likewise calls on the lake agency to compel local government units to immediately release the calamity funds intended for their respective constituents and allows fisherfolk and farmers plant crops for their subsistence or alternative livelihood.

The 5-point Omnibus demand also put to task the Department of Health (DoH) to mobilize doctors and health workers to look into the situation of poor folk and be ready to provide the lake people with free checkups and medicines. The demand also urges government to set aside at least P 1,500 worth of groceries package for every family of poor fisherfolk and lake resident in the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake representing the 9 lake towns of Rizal and 18 lake towns of Laguna, including the cities of Pasig, Taguig and Muntinlupa and the municipality of Pateros- all in National Capital Region.

Instead of proceeding with demolitions of fishing villages, privatization and conversion of public lands along the lake, we urge the government to provide P 5,000 rehabilitation grant to every fishing family so they could repair their houses wrecked by typhoon Ondoy last year. #

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Yap’s wait and see attitude puzzles militant group

By Billy Javier Reyes and Bb. Joyce Cabral

Manila, Philippines-Leaders of the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and staunch ally Anakpawis party list wondered why up to now Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap refuses to vacate the Department of Agriculture (DA) post despite the Supreme Court announcement this week that all appointed government officials running in the May 2010 elections were deemed resigned when they filed their certificates of candidacy.

Secretary Yap had filed his certificate of candidacy and is running unopposed in his bid to represent the 3rd district of Bohol province this May 2010 polls. But Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said Yap’s continued stay in the agriculture department revealed that the controversial Cabinet official has some “monkey business” to finish before the leaves office.

On Feb.23, the high tribunal issued decision directing all appointed government officials who are running for elective posts in May 2010 elections to quit public office. SC spokesperson Atty. Midas Marquez said the ruling was immediately executor, but the parties involved can file a motion for reconsideration.

“Is Secretary Yap over and above the Supreme Court? It is really mind-boggling and super puzzling why up to now; the agriculture secretary never said anything about the high court’s direct order for him to relinquish his post. Perhaps he has still some unfinished monkey business in DA. Just to remind the public, Yap steered DA into one of the top grossing corrupt offices in the Macapagal-Arroyo administration,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

“Secretary Yap has been very silent since the SC made its ruling on appointed government officials seeking elective posts in May 2010 elections. It will just take an hour for him to write and tender his resignation,” added Hicap.

Last week, Anakpawis party list and Pamalakaya dared President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Agriculture Secretary Yap to account a total of P 7.14 billion in taxpayers’ money, which the Commission on Audit (COA) found missing or diverted to other purposes in 2008.

Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said President Arroyo and Sec. Yap did not disclose the public the report and findings of COA about the disbursement of more than 7 billion pesos, which the state-run auditing body said was lost to “wasteful operation, bungled project implementation or missing and diverted funds.

“Mrs. Arroyo and Mr. Yap concealed the COA report to the public for obvious reason—first rate crimes of corruption were committed involving billions of public funds courtesy of the Office of the President and the Office of the secretary of Agriculture,” she said.

Quoting the COA 2008 report, the Anakpawis official said a total of P 5.19 billion intended for farm-to-market road project were either missing or incomplete. She said the DA only spent P 1.3 billion or 38.99 percent of the total project allotment for 2008. Another big item, the P 1.3 billion fertilizer fund project under the GMA Rice Program was also bungled because local government units refused to participate in the implementation.

Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list took note COA’s other findings like printing of P 2.2 million fertilizer discount coupons which were rendered useless, the construction of mini-dams in Regions VIII, IX and XI built at a cost of P 7.35 million but were rendered useless due to inferior construction, the construction of 11 Barangay Food Terminals worth P 1.55 million but only one was functional, and the remaining 10 were condemned due to operational deficiencies.

The same COA report described DA as notorious in purchasing equipment which are overpriced, not really needed or cannot be utilized or run by intended beneficiaries, adding that many of the equipment bought are unutilized, undelivered and now rusting in storage.

Pamalakaya said the earth shaking COA report should stop the national government and the agriculture department from buying 300 new ice-making machines to the amount of P 1.5 billion on top of the 98 ice-making machines which DA purchased in 2009 at an overpriced rate of P 4.6 million, 100 percent more of the prevailing industry price.

On January 6, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis led complainants to the plunder case filed against President Arroyo and Agriculture secretary Yap and officials of National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) in connection with the controversial P 455 million overpriced ice-making machines project said the government through the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor). #

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Rich nations behind RP tuna crisis— Pamalakaya

By Queen Shawn Dok

Manila, Philippines-The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said on Thursday powerful nations led by the United States (US), Japan and influential members of the European Union were the masterminds of the current tuna crisis in the country that sent hundreds of tuna fishing boats idled, and caused thousands of lost jobs in the $ 1 billion industry.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said poor member states of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) were coerced by the US, Japan , the EU, Australia, China , New Zealand, South Korea and Canada to close the fishing areas of Micronesia, Indonesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

He said the tuna monopolies in these rich nations want to protect their own tuna industries by blocking the tuna from Western and Central Pacific countries like the Philippines under the guise of environmental protection and tuna resource generation.

The Pamalakaya leader recalled the fishing ban was raised by EU, the world’s biggest market for canned tuna. Hicap said annexed to the issue raised by the EU, directs all tuna sales to continental Europe market now need a “catch certificate” in lieu of the old requirement that only dealt on the physical condition of the fish through a “health certificate.”

“ To set the record straight, industry sources in the tuna industry agreed that the fishing ban under the camouflage of environmental concern. The cruel intention is clear—the tuna ban was meant to decrease tuna coming from the Philippines and neighboring countries to stop them from hurting the sales of EU and US tuna producing companies currently confronted with crisis of overproduced tuna in their respective territories,” added Hicap.

Pamalakaya lamented that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, who have seen the predictable disastrous impact of closing the Western and Central Pacific fishing areas to local tuna industry and tuna workers in General Santos City failed to institute contingency plans how to address the loss of 150,000 jobs among tuna fishermen in Far South Mindanao with the two-year tuna fishing ban.

“The government has no contingency plans to address “the Great Tuna Crisis” of 2010. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her economic advisers are well informed that this job crisis in the tuna industry is in the offing with the imposed two-year ban, but nothing has been done to arrest the issue of labor woes and loss of economic means for tuna fish workers” said Pamalakaya.

“150,000 tuna fishermen will lose their jobs, and around 750,000 people indirectly dependent on the country’s backward tuna fishing industry will also feel the economic disaster of this 2-year tuna ban. So what would be the next move of this government? Tell the poor tuna fishing people to wait for two years for the lifting of the ban?” the group added.

Big players in the tuna industry including corporations in canning of tuna said the closure of high seas for tuna fishing will render idle some 200 fishing boats for the next two years, predicting a 20 percent drop in the supply of tuna in the local and world markets. The tuna industry in General Santos is currently valued at $ 380 million based on annual export figures of 400 metric tons per year.

Pamalakaya noted that while the US, the EU and Japan strongly lobbied for the closure of Western and Central Pacific areas for tuna fish ban, they have their respective free trade agreements with the Philippines urging the country to open up its own tuna fishing territory to tuna fishing vessels of these powerful countries.

The group noted that Japan is gearing to invade the Philippine waters for tuna fishing under the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa), while EU and the US also want a share of the country’s territorial waters for tuna under the proposed RP-EU free trade pact and RP-US Free Trade Agreement respectively.

The militant group said under Jpepa, the Philippine government is obliged to allow Japanese tuna factory ships to explore the country’s tuna resources in exchange for taxes derive from the value of harvested tuna from the country’s territorial waters.

Pamalakaya projected that the local tuna industry concentrated in General Santos port city stands to lose P18 billion in profits yearly once Japan tuna fishing fleets start their tuna exploration this year.

On the other hand, Japanese investors are expected to gain at least P43 billion annual profits in tuna trading, he said.

“The devastating impact of JPEPA to the local tuna industry includes the loss of 100,000 jobs provided by the local tuna fishing companies in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos City and the Davao regions,” Pamalakaya said.

According to Pamalakaya, a single 3,000-gross ton Japanese factory ship is capable of harvesting 50,000 metric tons of tuna a year or 150 metric tons of tuna per day. Based on industry standards, a single factory ship could earn as much as $32.5 million in gross profits from the sale of skipjack tuna.

Pamalakaya said the bulk of the profit will come from the remaining 35 percent of the 50,000 metric ton tuna catch, which is $210 million. “A single medium size factory ship thus will earn $242.5 million a year, and since Japan at the very least, employs four factory ships in its regular tuna fishing expedition per country, we expect them to earn a total of $ 970 million or P43.5 B per year,” the group said.

At present the local tuna industry yearly produces 400,000 metric tons of tuna, with 15 percent of the production going to domestic market and 85 percent for exports.

The European Union accounts for 40 percent of the country’s fresh and canned tuna exports or roughly 64,000 metric tons per year. The rest of the exports are shipped to tuna markets of Japan and the United States..

Pamalakaya said the government should indefinitely suspend if not abrogate the Jpepa treaty with Japan if it wants the local tuna fishing industry to survive.

“The most logical and objective solution to current predicament of tuna fish workers in Southern Philippines is to abrogate Jpepa and pursue the nationalization of tuna fishing industry by investing finance capital and technology for the inward development of the tuna sector, and this will arrest the rising tide of job loss among tuna fish workers and tuna fishermen,” the group said. #

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Visayan fishers want 12-year old fisheries law repealed

By Sugar Hicap

Cebu City- Fisherfolk groups in the island provinces of Bohol, Cebu and Negros today declare the 12-year old Fisheries Code of 1998 a major disaster, saying the next Congress should prioritize its repeal and replace it a new fisheries law that is progressive and responsive to the demand of the marginal fishermen across-the-country.

Leaders of Bokkana-Bohol, Pamana-Sugbo and Pamalakaya-Negros, the three island wide chapters of the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in Central Visayas and Western Visayas said the law enacted during the time of former President Fidel Ramos failed to achieve its goal, which is to empower the Filipino fisherfolk and raise the standard of living of not less than 1.3 million small fishermen and fish workers, and other 8 million people eking their livelihood from fishing and fish culture.

Enacted on Feb.24, 1998, the Fisheries Code replaced Presidential Decree 704 implemented during the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos. The post-Martial Law code reserves the 15-kilometer municipal fishing area to small fisherfolk and taps fisherfolk organizations as “Bantay Dagat” to help government enforcers in catching fishermen using dynamite and other forms of illegal fishing and drive away commercial fishing vessels from encroaching the reserved fishing area for marginal fishermen.

However, there are exceptions and loopholes in the law that allows big time commercial fishing vessels to penetrate the 15-kilometer municipal fishing area, if the waters inside the 15-municipal fishing area are 7 fathoms deep. In many cases, commercial fishing companies enter the municipal fishing grounds because of the 7-fathom exception.

“The 1998 fisheries law is either a comprehensive failure or a running nightmare or both. It has done nothing to alleviate the sorry situation of small fishers. The fisheries code is supposed to raise the standard of living of 10 million fishers and their dependents. But look at the fisherfolk now, they are the poorest people all over the country,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said Fisheries Code of 1998, which is hyped a protective law failed to stop large-scale destructive fishing, offshore mining in Central Visayas and Negros Island and now the offshore reclamation in Panglao Island, province of Bohol.

Hicap said the Fisheries Code reduced fisherfolk as sidekick law enforcers of the maritime police of the Philippine National Police (PNP) or reserve troops of the Philippine Navy.

The Pamalakaya leader said the 1998 fisheries law effectively limited the scope of fishing from communal practice to zone divided fishing with the implementation of zoning ordinance and color coding that bars fisherfolk from fishing to nearby municipalities or provinces.

Hicap said the 1998 fisheries law also legalized extortion and corruption, with local government officials imposing fees and taxes to small scale fishermen as to use of boats, nets and other fishing gears.

He said the 12-year central law in local fisheries sector also failed to combat global warming, and on the contrary promoted the massive conversion of fishing areas and public lands along coastal and lakeshores into aquaculture hub, industrial zones and eco-tourism spots.

Pamalakaya, its regional and provincial chapters in Central Visayas and Negros Island will lead the drafting of a new fishery law that would be submitted to next Congress for approval.

Tentatively billed as Genuine Fisheries and Aquatic Reform Bill (GFARB), the new fisheries act envisioned by small fisherfolk seeks to nationalize the backward fishing industry, ban all government and private activities that destroy the marine fishing areas like offshore mining and reclamation, and other forms of privatization and conversion of all communal fishing areas and coastal communities.

The GFARB will immediately reserve the exclusive use of 15-km municipal fishing ground to small fisherfolk, stop massive fish importation activities, distribute existing corporate fishponds to fishermen associations and organizations, and ensure production subsidies to poor fisherfolk.

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Lawmakers urged to let go salaries, pork barrel for El Nino victims

By Akihira Tatchu and Bb. Joyce Cabral in Manila
and Lollipop delos Reyes, in Antipolo City, Rizal

Leftwing militants belonging to Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday urged senators and congressmen to donate their salaries and remaining pork barrel from March to June 30, 2010 to victims of El Nino.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson Salvador France appealed to senators and district representatives to contribute their available funds to subsidize sectors hardly hit by the long dry spell, specifically farmers and fishermen all over the country. The fisherfolk leader lamented that Malacanang, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have yet to identify workable solutions that will provide urgent relief to affected and other vulnerable sectors.

France said the affected sectors could generate P 40,425 each from each district congressman. If there are 220 district congressmen, the fund which could be raised would be P 8,893,500 per month or
P 35.57 million for four months. The Pamalakaya leader said there are 23 senators at present, and each senator also receives P 40,425 per month or P 929,775 for all senators. If they senators decide to donate their salaries to El Nino victims, the amount that can be generated from senators’ salaries for next four months would be P 3,719,100.

Pamalakaya said if the 243 congressmen and senators will donate at least P 20 million of their remaining pork barrel for the year that would amount to P 4.86 billion, excluding their salaries. The militant group said what the executive branch of government did so far was to monitor the impact of El Nino and hyped multi-billion mitigation projects which are subjected to audit free schemes, and are prone to high crimes of corruption.

Pamalakaya said the combined salaries and donated pork barrel could raise as much as P 5-billion which could be of big help to affected farmers and fishermen.

“There are billions of pesos of unprogrammed funds out there in the secret vault of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. There are billions of pesos of unaccounted presidential pork barrel funds that were kept and are still in the disposal of the ruling syndicate in Malacanang. Where are these funds? Why not mobilize these funds to provide subsidies and other forms of aid to El Nino affected folks?” the group said.

Earlier, leaders of Pamalakaya, Anakpawis party list and Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) submitted a 5-point Omnibus demand to Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) that would cushion the impact of El Nino to small fisherfolk and urban poor communities situated along the lake.

The 5-point Omnibus Demand presented to LLDA General Manager Edgar Manda includes supply of 1 sack of rice per family for free beginning March to July this year.

The proposal submitted to LLDA likewise calls on the lake agency to compel local government units to immediately release the calamity funds intended for their respective constituents and allows fisherfolk and farmers plant crops for their subsistence or alternative livelihood.

The groups also tasked the Department of Health (DoH) to mobilize doctors and health workers to look into the situation of poor folk and be ready to provide the lake people with free checkups and medicines. They also pressed the government to set aside at least P 1,500 worth of groceries package for every family of poor fisherfolk and lake resident in the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake representing the 9 lake towns of Rizal and 18 lake towns of Laguna, including the cities of Pasig, Taguig and Muntinlupa and the municipality of Pateros- all in National Capital Region.

“Instead of proceeding with demolitions of fishing villages, privatization and conversion of public lands along the lake, we urge the government to provide P 5,000 rehabilitation grant to every fishing family so they could repair their houses wrecked by typhoon Ondoy last year,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya said the LLDA should permanently open if not dismantle the controversial Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NCHS) to allow salt water from Manila Bay to penetrate Laguna Lake. Gonzalez said the regular entry of salt water in Laguna Lake will allow the lake to restore its former ecological balance and healthy inland environment. #

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El Nino drives lake fishers to demand econ subsidy from gov’t

By Rey Manangan, Billy Javier Reyes and Pepsi La Loma

Taytay, Rizal- The impact of El Nino phenomenon on the already dwindling inland resources of Laguna Lake compelled lake fishers to demand the government a monthly supply of 1 sack of rice for every fishing family for free.

The proposal came from Laguna Lake fishermen identified with the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis party list the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the broad Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM).

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the demand for free supply of rice to cushion the impact of long dry spell is just one of the five set of economic demands pressed by small fishermen from Malacanang, concerned government agencies and local governments in Laguna Lake. He said the issue of lingering hunger and poverty in Laguna Lake that was further compounded by last year’s super typhoon Ondoy and now the El Nino phenomenon.

Hicap said the proposal was agreed by leaders of Pamalakaya, Anakpawis party list and SLLM during an all Laguna Lake leaders caucus held in Pamalakaya headquarters in Quezon City last week and was affirmed in the municipal assembly of Anakpawis –Cardona chapter in Talim Island yesterday.

“Our proposal for supply of 1 rice of sack for free will cover the month of March, April, May, June and July- where the long dry spell is expected to end. Aside from free supply of rice within the period, we also demand local government units to immediately release the calamity funds intended for their respective constituents and let fisherfolk and farmers plant crops for their subsistence or alternative livelihood,” added Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader also said that since the long dry spell is expected to generate heat related diseases among fisherfolk and poor lake dwellers, his group is also urging the Department of Health (DoH) to mobilize doctors and health workers to look into the situation of poor folk and be ready to provide the lake people with free check ups and medicines.

Hicap also pressed the government to set aside at least P 1,500 worth of groceries package for every family of poor fisherfolk and lake resident in the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake representing the 9 lake towns of Rizal and 18 lake towns of Laguna, including the cities of Pasig, Taguig and Muntinlupa and the municipality of Pateros- all in National Capital Region.

For his part, Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog chair and SLLM convener Pedro Gonzalez, the set of economic subsidy package is just an item to the set of Omnibus Demand crafted by fisherfolk , the party list group Anakpawis and other cause-oriented organizations in Laguna Lake.

Gonzalez said Malacanang, the Laguna Lake Development Authority(LLDA), the provincial and municipal governments of Rizal and Laguna and city mayors in Metro Manila should stop if not indefinitely suspend the demolition of communities in the lake and put an end to the ongoing massive reclamation and other joint state-private projects.

“Instead of proceeding with demolitions of fishing villages, privatization and conversion of public lands along the lake, we urge the government to provide P 5,000 rehabilitation grant to every fishing family so they could repair their houses wrecked by typhoon Ondoy last year,” said Gonzalez.

The 66-year old fisherfolk leader said LLDA should permanently open if not dismantle the controversial Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NCHS) to allow salt water from Manila Bay to penetrate Laguna Lake. Gonzalez said the regular entry of salt water in Laguna Lake will allow the lake to restore its former ecological balance and healthy inland environment.

This set of demands, according to Anakpawis party list secretary general Cherry Clemente will be submitted to the following agencies—the LLDA, the provincial and local governments in Rizal and Laguna, to the mayor of Pasig City, Taguig City, Muntinlupa City and municipality of Pateros.

Clemente said a petition for the same set of demands will also be submitted to the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the health department and to the Office of the President, House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for appropriate actions.

Tomorrow, a 10-vehicle caravan from different towns of Rizal and Laguna and NCR will join a march rally led by some 2,000 urban poor residents of Lupang Arenda in Taytay, Rizal to press LLDA to stop the demolition of their communities and endorse the El Nino driven demands set by Pamalakaya, SLLM and Anakpawis for people of Laguna Lake.

The government plans to evict 62,000 fishing and urban poor families in Lupang Arenda on the ground that they all live in danger zone areas, but critics said the government is using the issue of massive flooding caused by typhoon Ondoy last year to justify the demolition and make easy for the government to install big ticket projects in Laguna Lake. #

incumbent mayors are called to release calamity funds for El Nino victims

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