Traders not El Nino siphon fishers’ catch

By Bombshell Moran and Queen Shawn Dok

Manila, Philippines-Members of the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in Talim Island in Cardona, Rizal said they still enjoy a considerable volume of Taiwan fish or popularly known as big head in Laguna Lake, but no matter how big their catch are, it has no impact to lake fishers because of the high cost of regular gasoline and fish traders buy them at rock bottom prices per kilo.

In a consultation conducted on Saturday among lake fishermen in Barangay Ticulio and Barangay Subay in Cardona, Rizal, Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz found out that despite the drought, small fishermen in Laguna lake still enjoy huge average catch of 20-40 kilos of big head, but the high cost of regular gasoline and the low price of their produce spoiled the bounty catch.

“If they catch 40 kilos of big head, the fish trader based in mainland Binangonan will just buy their catch at P 8 per kilo from the previous P 20 per kilo of big head. The gross sales would be P 320 but they have to spend at least P 250 per day for regular gasoline, so the average net profit would be P 70 per day. The P 70 day will be equally distributed to the owner of the fishing boat and the two fishermen who took part in the fish capture operation,” he said.

Corpuz rebuked there is an oversupply of big head in the market. He said the market is not really saturated with big head and that the present demand are still high compared to the volume of big head supplied to local markets in Rizal and the National Capital Region.

He said cultured and fish captured big head in Laguna Lake are not really that abundant to merit drastic drop in farm gate price. “What is happening here is price manipulation and extreme greed for profit by big fish traders,” he said.

The Pamalakaya information chief said traders sell big head bought from lake fishermen to local markets in Rizal and National Capital Region at P 50 to P 70 per kilo, and fish traders enjoy a windfall of P 42 to
P 62 per kilo of big head.

“Imagine P 70 to be divided to three equal parts? Who will survive in this kind of situation? The oil companies and the fish traders are raking profits at the expense of our hardworking fisher people in Laguna Lake and this is very, very unfair,” Corpuz added.

Pamalakaya said local municipal governments and local agricultural councils should jointly pass and release an ordinance that would increase the price of big head from the current P 8 per kilo to P 20 per kilo on the average to allow lake fisherfolk to earn considerable or decent income for their families.

The group suggested that the government provide oil and production subsidy to small fishermen operating motorized fishing boats and economic subsidy to marginal fishermen operating non-motorized boats in Laguna Lake. Pamalakaya proposed P 4,500 for fishermen operating motorized boats, and P 2,500 for economic subsidy of small fishers operating non-motorized boats.

Pamalakaya said 80 percent of the oil and production subsidy will go oil and other operational expenses, while the remaining 20 percent will go the urgent economic needs of small fishermen and their families.

Pamalakaya said the expenses for regular gasoline and other petroleum products eat up 80 percent of the total production cost per fishing trip.

For red tide infested and fish kill affected areas, Pamalakaya proposed an allocation of P 10,000 economic and production subsidy per month per poor fishing family.

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. #

Laguna fishers dumped water lilies to protest state inaction on drought affected fishermen

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