By Gerry Albert Corpuz, all.voices.com
MANILA, Philippines- The series of oil price hikes prompted a leftist fisher group in the Philippines to call for a fish strike at the end of this month.
The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday urged the more than 313,000 small fishermen across the country who operates small fishing boats to go on fish strike on March 31 against the unbridled increases in the prices of petroleum products.
“Let us mark March 31 as a National Day of Outrage Against the Oil Cartel Exploitation and the Puppetry of the Aquino government to multinational oil companies,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a statement.
In a hastily called press conference yesterday held at Pamalakaya national headquarters in Quezon City, Hicap revealed that the national secretariat had issued a memorandum to 43 provincial chapters of the group to join the fish strike on March 31 and convince also owners of commercial fishing vessels to join the nationwide fish strike on March 31.
The memorandum for Fish Strike and No Fish Day was dispatched over the weekend to Pamalakaya chapters in Northern Luzon and Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, National Capital Region, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Negros Island and Panay Island, Far South Mindanao and Northern Mindanao. The March 31 “No Fish Day”, Pamalakaya said, is just the beginning of more protest actions from marginal fisherfolk.
“Let us all express our collective outrage against this national exploitation and oppression courtesy of oil cartel and their incumbent puppet and client in Malacanang. We ask our small fisherfolk and the operators of commercial fishing vessels to join the small fisher people in this fight against this national exploitation for all season,” said Hicap.
Last Tuesday, oil companies raised prices of gasoline and diesel by P 1.50 per liter and kerosene by P 1.25 per liter, the third time in eight days, making the accumulative increases in the prices of gasoline by P 6.75 per liter for gasoline and P 6.50 per liter for diesel since January this year.
Pamalakaya’s Hicap said the fisherfolk who regularly consume 10 liters of gasoline or diesel per fishing trip are groaning in pain due to the intermittent increases in the prices of petroleum products. He said the cost of petroleum products eats up 80 percent of the total production cost per fishing trip.
Hicap said in 2008, due to weekly increases in prices of oil products, fisherfolk were forced to cut fishing trip from the regular 8 hours to 12 hours to 4 hours to 12 hours. The Pamalakaya leader said small fisherfolk also reduced fishing days from the average 5 to 6 days a week to 3 days a week due to oil price hikes. The Pamalakaya leader said about 313,985 owners of small fishing boats have been affected by the series of oil price hikes all over the country.
For his part, Pamalakaya Vice chairperson for Luzon Salvador France said the oil price hikes also affected operators and owners of commercial fishing vessels. During the same period, France recalled that commercial fishing operators admitted that oil cost make up 65 percent of their companies total production cost per fishing expedition.
“If my memory serves me right, around 50,000 fish workers lost their jobs as 14 tuna canneries in Western Mindanao engaged in tuna fishing and canning closed shops or downsized their operations as a result of oil price hikes and the 12 percent expanded VAT levied on petroleum products,” France said.
He said the Iloilo City based Jumbo Fishing Company, an operator of 30 medium-sized commercial fishing boats grounded its vessels in protest of the weekly oil price hikes and the 12 percent VAT on oil. The fishing company said they pay P 1.8 million per month for VAT on oil alone.
Meanwhile, Pamalakaya national vice chairperson Pedro Gonzalez enumerates the concise 8 point proposal of the group the Aquino administration should undertake to stop the oil price hikes.
1. Immediately impose price control on petroleum products.
2. Compel oil companies mainly the Petron, Shell and Chevron to open their books of accounts to allow the government to identify their practices of overpricing and other forms of price manipulation.
3. Remove from the current prices of petroleum products the amount representing overpriced cost (overpricing reaches P6.72 per liter according to recent study)
4. Recover the P 10.5 billion in total tax credits and incentives given to oil companies.
5. Remove the 12 percent VAT imposed on oil products
6. Use the P 68-billion audit free pork barrel of President Aquino for oil and production subsidies. The allocations would be P 28 billion for small fisherfolk and other rural products using oil products, P 20 billion for small jeepney drivers and operators and the remaining P 20-B for livelihood subsidies of other vulnerable sectors
7. Certify as urgent House Bill No. 4317 authored by Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano calling for the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law.
8. Reclaim or re-acquire the entire Petron to pave way for the nationalization of oil industry.