by Lollipop delos Reyes and Trinity Biglang Awa
Manila, Philippines-Fisherfolk affected by the El Nino phenomenon in Laguna Lake on Tuesday dumped water lilies at the gate of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Quezon City to protest what they called state neglect of small fisherfolk, one of the sectors devastated by the ongoing dry spell all over the country.
Some 20 fisherfolk activists belonging to Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis party list and Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) staged a roving picket carrying water lilies harvested from lakeshores of Laguna to denounce the agriculture department’s insensitivity to the plight of lake fishers across the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake.
“We assert our political right to state subsidies so we can fish and survive the harsh impact of El Nino. But our legitimate right for social justice is eternally neglected and abandoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Secretary Arthur Yap ,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.
The Pamalakaya leader said the national government, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and the local government units surrounding Laguna Lake have no contingency plans for lake people affected by El Nino. Hicap said not a single centavo has been spent for El Nino affected lake folk since January this year.
“What happened to the P 1.7 billion El Nino funds? Why the government and its local units at the grassroots level have yet to release the calamity funds allocated to mitigate the impact of extreme heat and dry spell? We are not begging for alms, we are asserting our political and economic right for subsidies,” added Hicap.
Pamalakaya had submitted 8-point demand for small fisherfolk and urban poor families to LLDA General Manager Edgar Manda last week for prompt and appropriate action—1. Stop demolition of 400,000 lake folk families around Laguna Lake, 2. Permanently open Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NCHS), 3. Stop reclamation and other forms of privatization and conversion in Laguna Lake, 4. P 5,000 housing rehabilitation fund for fishermen whose houses were destroyed during typhoon Ondoy, 5. Economic grant composed of 1 sack of rice per month for every poor fishing family, 6. P 1,500 worth of groceries per month for each poor fisherfolk family, 7. Promulgation of provincial and municipal orders allowing farmers and fisherfolk in the lake to plant around the lake or conduct other means of backyard livelihood as possible source of income and 8. mobilization of doctors and health workers in fishing villages to address El Nino generated diseases.
Pamalakaya lamented that Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap is pre-occupied with corruption tainted projects in DA like the controversial P 455-million overpriced ice making machine projects, instead of attending to the demands of el Nino affected sectors.
Last week, Anakpawis party list and Pamalakaya dared President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 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.
“The funds which should be used to cushion the life threatening impact of El Nino to fisherfolk and rural producers are missing and nowhere to be found. But Yap is taking this highly explosive issue with a grain of salt,” added Clemente. #