Tag Archives: Department of Agriculture

Sariaya fish freezing machine, defective, time-ticking bomb, says fishers group

by Kremlin Montenegro and Sarsi Pimentel

MANILA, Philippines-The leaders of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list on said on Saturday, the fish freezing machine installed in the Sentrong Pamilihan ng Produktong Agrikultura ng Quezon (SPPAQ) in Sariaya, Quezon province is defective and likened it to a time-ticking bomb ready to explode at any given time.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente warned end users especially vegetable farmers and fisherfolk on the extreme danger posed by the quick freezing machine to health and immediate surroundings where the unit is installed.

Reports reaching the headquarters of Pamalakaya in Quezon City revealed that the machine is not an ice-making machine, but a quick freezing machine the employs a type of highly combustible chemical alcohol and formalin to assure freezing and maintain the freshness of fish and vegetables once these are stored inside the machine.

“It is like a time-ticking bomb ready to explode at any given time because of the highly flammable substance used for quick freezing. The safety and the health of the people are sacrificed at the altar of this graft-ridden and corruption tainted machine,” Hicap and Clemente lamented.

On January 26, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Reform (BFAR) deployed the quick freezing machine, one of the 98 units acquired by the government from the Integrated Refrigeration Systems and Services Inc, (IRRS), which was bought at an overpriced cost of P 4.6 million per unit or P 455 million.

The unit was disposed along Maharlika Highway in the village of Sampaloc II in Sariaya, Quezon. Hernando Decena, inventor of the freezer machine using the new brine immersion freezing (BIF) technology, explained that unlike conventional ice-making machines, his invention can store agricultural produce like fish, meat, leafy vegetables and fruits in sealed styrofoam foam boxes for two to three days without ice.
“If these commodities are placed inside standard refrigerators or freezers after being frozen in BIF freezers, these can last from six months to one year and still preserve the quality of these goods,” Decena explained during the demonstration. It takes as little as three to 30 minutes (depending on type, size and volume of product to be processed) to freeze a product using BIF, compared to the conventional method, which takes three-four hours, the DA said during the demo activity.

The machine is capable of freezing a maximum of 500 kilograms of vegetables in one operation. But Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list leaders refuted the claims of the inventor, asserting that the same technology was banned in different countries like South Korea and the United States 30 years ago because of its devastating impact to health and environment.

Both groups also said the dangerous machine was overpriced by P 3.9 million per unit and P 2.3 million per unit as originally claimed by their groups. They said the industry players argued that the quick freezing machine bought by the government should only cost taxpayers a little over $ 15,000 USD or P 700,000 per unit and not P 4.6 million per unit.

Pamalakaya pressed Malacanang to recall the contract between National Agribusiness Council (Nabcor) and IRRS Inc. following the discovery of the overpricing and the defective status of the freezing machine. The group also said the government should immediately pullout the freezing unit in Sariaya to prevent it from causing future damages to the people.

Last January 6, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis filed a plunder complaint and other criminal and administrative charges against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap, officials of Nabcor and the Bid and Awards Committee of the Department of Agriculture and private officials representing IRSS in connection with the highly questionable procurement of 98 ice-making machines. #

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GMA, Secretary Yap told: Account P 7.14 B missing funds in 2008

by Pepsi La Loma, Sarsi Pimentel and Lollipop delos Reyes

Manila, Philippines- Leftwing activists belonging to the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Agriculture Secretary Arthur 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.

In press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said President Arroyo and Sec. Yap did not disclose to 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,” said Hicap.

Quoting the COA 2008 report, the Pamalakaya leader said a total of P 5.19 billion intended for farm-to-market road project were either missing or incomplete. Hicap 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.

“The projects were reportedly incomplete. So the next question is where are the unspent funds? Are they really missing? Were they diverted or juggled to other highly questionable projects? What happen to the farm-to-market road project? Did it become farm to pocket (of GMA allies) road project?” asked Hicap.

Pamalakaya also 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).

Hicap said DA and Nabcor will join the same private supplier- the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) for the importation of additional 300 units of ice-making machines under the P 1.5 billion ice making project.

“P 1.5 billion is P 1.5 billion. That’s a lot of money for electoral campaign. It can be used as a standby fund by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to corner the speakership in the House of Representatives,” he said referring to Arroyo’s alleged plan to seek the speakership post once officially elected as congresswoman of the2nd district of Pampanga.

Last January 6, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis leaders led by Rep. Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod filed the plunder and other criminal and administrative charges against President Arroyo, Sec. Yap and 13 other public and private officials

Pamalakaya said the agriculture department through Nabcor awarded the government contract to a lone bidder—the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) on September 2, 2009, which will provide the ice-making unit at P 4,650,000 per unit, or about P 2.3 million higher compared to prevailing industry price for the ice-making machine.

“The same corrupt actors are behind this P 1.5 billion upcoming ice-making machine scandal. We will not allow this icing on the cake ice making machines scam. We will pursue another case in the Office of the Ombudsman. We will write lawmakers to investigate this latest raiding of taxpayers’ money, we will ask the Supreme Court to stop this plunder adventure of Arroyo and Yap and we will aggressively explore the parliament of the street to demand truth, justice and accountability,” the group added.

Senior citizens were waiting for their turn to get their relief goods from Pamalakaya and Anakpawis volunteers. They could have more if not for the government's all-season crime of corruption

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Militants to Yap: “Where were you when we needed you?”

By Cherry Pie Eggpie Sandoval and Lollipop de los Reyes

Manila, Philippines- “Where were you when we needed you?”

The word war between Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and the groups who filed a plunder suit against him last week at the Office of the Ombudsman resumes today as the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and activist party list Anakpawis posed this inquiry to the embattled secretary in connection with the proposed oil and production subsidy for small fisherfolk affected by oil price hikes.

In July 2008, Pamalakaya forwarded a sectoral proposal to the Department of Agriculture (DA) asking Secretary Yap to immediately act on the demand of small fisherfolk battered by oil price spikes to grant the sector oil and production subsidies amounting to P 4,500 per month for fisherfolk owning small motorized boats and P 2,500 per month for fisherfolk using non-motorized boats.

The P 32-b oil and production subsidy for small fisherfolk was submitted to DA in the aftermath of typhoon Frank in 2008 and was followed up after the devastation created by typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng last year. The proposal aims to provide relief and economic assistance to some 900,000 small fisherfolk across the country.

“Secretary Yap, his apologists and his camp of inglorious bastards in DA took our request and just demand for granted,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement. The fisherfolk leader said the money for subsidies could be produced by reducing allocation for debt servicing by at least P 30-billion per year.

‘Instead of addressing the call of small fisherfolk for production and oil subsidies, Yap and company are engaged in prime time and first-rate crime of corruption,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

Pamalakaya and Anakpawis said Secretary Yap and Malacanang should hail the filing of plunder complaint in connection with the controversial P 455 million ice making machines project against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Sec. Yap, instead of dismissing the plunder complaint as nuisance suit or ideologically driven harassment.

“President Arroyo and Sec. Yap should be happy that they were given the opportunity to defend themselves against charges of first-rate crime of corruption before the Office of the Ombudsman, although this office is widely perceived as corrupt as Malacanang, the Department of Agriculture and other Arroyo infested government agencies,” the groups said.

But Pamalakaya and Anakpawis noticed that instead of welcoming the plunder charges, Malacanang spokespersons simply dismissed the plunder complaint as nuisance and plain harassment of the President and her current favorite official—Sec. Yap.

“Malacanang is sala sa lamig, sala sa init. President Arroyo should be thankful to us because we gave her the chance to defend herself and clear her name. The same applies to Sec. Yap and the rest of the agriculture officials implicated in the P 455 million ice making scandal. However, signs of guilt are now showing ahead of investigation process,” they added.

Pamalakaya and Anakpawis likewise challenged President Arroyo to compel Secretary Arthur Yap to resign as chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA) or place him under preventive suspension and force the agriculture secretary to quit from running as congressional candidate in the 3rd district of Bohol.

The groups also reiterated their demands to both chambers of Congress to investigate the unchecked and questionable operations of Nabcor, after the groups found out that in 2007, the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that the Department of Agriculture (DA) attached agency was responsible for the highly irregular procurement of post harvest facilities amounting to P 300 million during the year.

Pamalakaya and Anakpawis said part of the findings include the P95.67 million worth were outmoded, unserviceable, incomplete, missing or simply of no practical use to the recipient farmers. “Secretary Yap, his apologists and talking parrots inside DA and NABCOR are saying that all the transactions in the procurement of post harvest facilities are transparent and aboveboard, but the COA findings reveal the exact opposite,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

“It seems to us that Nabcor has been engaged in money making activity under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, and it is shielded by its nature and orientation as a government-owned and controlled corporation free from financial audit and public scrutiny,” the groups added.

Anakpawis and Pamalakaya recalled that in 2008, Nabcor got involved in a national scandal involving 1.4 million hectares of Philippine farmlands that the DA had committed to the Chinese government for the latter’s use in connection with its food program.

The deal was billed as a giant step to modernize the countryside, the deal would allow China to develop the 1.4 million hectares into a modern food-farm complex. But the purpose, according to the groups, was to serve as a major food source for the province of Heilongjiang, which had foreseen a horrendous food shortage occurring in China.

The deal is supposed to be part of the controversial NBN-ZTE deal was aborted due to the strong protest lodged by anti-corruption watchdogs.

In their 16-page plunder complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list said President Arroyo, Sec. Yap and officials of National Agribusiness Council (NABCOR), members of Awards and Bids Committee and owners and operators of Integrated Refrigeration Service System (IRRS) violated Republic Act 7080 or the Anti-Violation Plunder Law, Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act for grave misconduct.

The complainants said the agriculture department through NABCOR awarded the government contract to a lone bidder—the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) on September 2, 2009, which will provide the ice-making unit at P 4,650,000 per unit, or about P 2.3 million higher compared to prevailing industry price for the ice-making machine.

“We will not allow this icing on the cake ice making machines scam to proceed. We will pursue this case in the Office of the Ombudsman, we will write lawmakers to investigate this latest raiding of taxpayers’ money, we will ask the Supreme Court to stop this plunder adventure of Arroyo and Yap and will aggressively explore the parliament of the street to demand truth, justice and accountability,” they said.

“We will even ask and appeal to the Chinese community in Ongpin and Binondo to denounce and disown this Chinese bureaucrat capitalist in the person of Secretary Yap for tarnishing the names of the Filipino-Chinese businessmen who want fair play and conduct honest-to-goodness business in the country,” they added.

Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list asserted that the P 455- million ice making machine scam is chiefly authored by President Arroyo and members of the syndicate operating in and out of Malacanang and in and out of the agriculture department and that Secretary Yap performed his role to the hilt as the lead actor in this newest high crime of corruption orchestrated by the ruling Mafia in the Palace.

As agreed by parties to contract, the government will pay IRSS the sum of P 455,700,000 for 98 units of ice-making machines with liquid freeze capability which will be supplied to selected municipal fish ports nationwide. But the complainants said the government can obtain 98 units of ice-making machines for P 225 million to P 230 million, or half of the quoted and agreed price with IRSS.

According to information gathered by Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list, NABCOR conducted a preliminary bidding last August 26, and IRSS which won the bidding, was only incorporated on August 25, a day before the preliminary bidding was conducted.

The groups said under Republic Act 9184 (Procuring Law), Section 37.1, the bidder must submit a copy of its single largest completed contract over the past 3 years, and such condition is impossible for IRSS, which was only incorporated on August 25, this year, a day before the preliminary bidding. The contract was finally awarded last Sept.2.

Prior to the filing of the plunder complaint, businessman Allan V. Ragasa, a complainant had filed charges against Sec. Yap and officials of NABCOR and officers of IRSS headed by its chairman Alexander Leung before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the questionable awarding of contract to IRSS. The complaint in violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and RA 9184 was filed on Nov.18, 2009. #

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Activists staged “holiday on ice” protest vs. P 455-M ice machine scam

By Chocolate Moose Fernandez and Billy Javier Reyes

Manila, Philippines-Some 50 activists belonging to the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list blocked the main gate of the office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) with 30 blocks of huge ice cubes to protest the agency’s procurement of 98 units of ice-making machines for P 4.65 million per unit for a total of P 455 million, which the groups said were overpriced by more the P 2.3 million per unit for a total of P 225 million.

“This holiday on ice protest is not meant to please nor promote Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse holiday on ice adventure. This is a highly agitating protest denouncing the money making scheme perpetually perpetrated by Malacanang and the agriculture department. Imagine, the Filipino taxpaying public will pay for P 455 million scandal ridden ice-making machine project, and worse, Secretary Arthur Yap and his gang mates are using our fisherfolk’s name to justify this multi-hundred million crime of corruption,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

Hicap, also the fisherfolk representative in Anakpawis party list national council, said the agriculture department through the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) awarded the government contract to a lone bidder—the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) on September 2, 2009, which will provide the ice-making unit at P 4,650,000 per unit, or about P 2.3 million higher compared to prevailing industry price for the ice-making machine.

“In the name of national interest and public trust, Secretary Yap should immediate revoke the contract because it is highly disadvantageous to the national government and to the taxpaying public. Imagine taxpayers will pay more than P 225 million of hard-earned taxpayers’ money to pave way this high crime of corruption. This highly inflammatory, mind-boggling and totally unacceptable,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

The Pamalakaya official said the government will pay IRSS the sum of P 455,700,000 for 98 units of ice-making machines with liquid freeze capability which will be supplied to selected municipal fish ports nationwide. But the group said the government can obtain 98 units of ice-making machines for P 225 million to P 230 million, or half of the quoted and agreed price with IRSS.

“P 225 million is P 225 million. That sum of money can be used to finance any kind of sinister agenda or cruel intention by the present power holders in and out of Malacanang. The money might also be used to finance the electoral campaign of Mrs. Arroyo’s national and local bets in 2010 elections. This is money making in aid of electoral campaign for 2010 polls,” added Hicap.

Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list asserted that Secretary Yap is lawfully and morally bound to revoke the contract. “Secretary Yap can revoke the contract and send NABCOR officials to the firing line for subscribing to this highly irregular and grossly scandalous agreement with IRRS. The secretary can do it at any given time of the day,” the group said.

According to information gathered by Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list, NABCOR conducted a preliminary bidding last August 26, and IRSS which won the bidding, was only incorporated on August 25, a day before the preliminary bidding was conducted.

The groups said under Republic Act 9184 (Procuring Law), Section 37.1, the bidder must submit a copy of its single largest completed contract over the past 3 years, and such condition is impossible for IRSS, which was only incorporated on August 25, this year, a day before the preliminary bidding. The contract was finally awarded last Sept.2.

Pamalakaya threatened to file a plunder case against Secretary Yap and other officials of NABCOR if they will not cancel the contract with IRSS on or before the end of 2009.

“Secretary Yap has 9 days to correct this multi-hundred million peso mistake. If he will not do his job, then we will file a plunder case against him before the Office of the Ombudsman and we will charge him and his conspirators of plunder and violations of anti-graft and corrupt practices act along with their private clients,” Pamalakaya said.

Aside from Secretary Yap, Pamalakaya said it will include in the plunder charge sheet the top officials of NABCOR namely Alan A. Javellana, President; Romulo A. Relevo, Chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee; Dennis Lozada, Winston Azucena, Melody de Guzman and Encarnita Cristina Munsod, all members of Bids and Awards Committee, and owners and operators of IRSS.

Earlier, Allan V. Ragasa, a complainant had filed charges against Sec. Yap and officials of NABCOR and officers of IRSS headed by its chairman Alexander Leung before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the questionable awarding of contract to IRSS. The complaint in violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and RA 9184 was filed on Nov.18, 2009. #

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Agri chief urged to recall overpriced ice-making machines

by Gerry Albert Corpuz and Billy Javier Reyes, senior reporters, The Pamalakaya Times

Manila, Philippines- Leaders of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list on Monday urged Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to recall the department’s purchase of 98 units of ice-making machines, which the group said was overpriced by P 2.3 million per unit.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the agriculture department through the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) awarded the government contract to a lone bidder—the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) on September 2, 2009, which will sell the ice-making unit at P 4,650,000 per unit, or about P 2.3 million higher compared to prevailing industry price for the ice-making machine.

“In the name of national interest and public trust, Secretary Yap should immediate revoke the contract because it is highly disadvantageous to the national government and to the taxpaying public. Imagine we will pay more than P 233 million of hard-earned taxpayers’ money to the preferred client of Malacanang. This is too much and super corruption to the highest order,” added Hicap.

The Pamalakaya official said the government will pay IRSS the sum of P 455,700,000 for 98 units of ice-making machines with liquid freeze capability which will be supplied to selected municipal fish ports nationwide. But the group said the government can obtain 98 units of ice-making machines for P 225 million to P 230 million, or half of the quoted and agreed price with IRSS.

“P 225 million is P 225 million. That sum of money can be used to finance any kind of sinister agenda or cruel intention by the present power holders in and out of Malacanang. The money might also be used to finance the electoral campaign of Mrs. Arroyo’s national and local bets in 2010 elections. This is money making in aid of electoral campaign for 2010 polls,” added Hicap.

Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said Secretary Yap is lawfully and morally bound to explain why the agriculture department entered into a contract that is disadvantageous to the government and to the Filipino public.

“Do we really need these ice-making machines? Our fisherfolk members all over the country were not even consulted on these projects, but these ice-making machines had already their icing on the cake status as far DA and its’ favored contractor are concerned. Secretary Yap owes the public a honest-to-goodness explanation, nothing more, nothing less,” the Anakpawis official said.

According to information gathered by Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list, NABCOR conducted a preliminary bidding last August 26, and IRSS which won the bidding, was only incorporated on August 25, a day before the preliminary bidding was conducted.

The groups said under Republic Act 9184 (Procuring Law), Section 37.1, the bidder must submit a copy of its single largest completed contract over the past 3 years, and such condition is impossible for IRSS, which was only incorporated on August 25, this year, a day before the preliminary bidding. The contract was finally awarded last Sept.2.

Pamalakaya gave at least Secretary Yap a week to issue a memorandum calling for the revocation of what the group a highly irregular and extremely anomalous contract, adding that the agriculture secretary can do it even in one day.

The militant group threatened to file a plunder case against Secretary Yap and other officials of NABCOR if they fail to cancel the contract with IRSS in connection with the corruption tainted procurement of 98 units of ice-making machines pegged at P 4.6 million per unit.

“They have a week them a week or two to correct this multi-hundred million peso mistake. If they will not do their job, then we will take this case before the Office of the Ombudsman and have them charge of plunder and violations of anti-graft and corrupt practices act along with their private clients,” Pamalakaya said.

Aside from Secretary Yap, Pamalakaya said it will include in the plunder charge sheet the top officials of NABCOR namely Alan A. Javellana, President; Romulo A. Relevo, Chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee; Dennis Lozada, Winston Azucena, Melody de Guzman and Encarnita Cristina Munsod, all members of Bids and Awards Committee, and owners and operators of IRSS.

Earlier, Allan V. Ragasa, a complainant had filed charges against Sec. Yap and officials of NABCOR and officers of IRSS headed by its chairman Alexander Leung before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the questionable awarding of contract to IRSS. The complaint in violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and RA 9184 was filed on Nov.18, 2009. #

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Rural groups cry foodless on World Food Day

By Roy Morilla, Gigi Babon and Gerry Albert Corpuz

Quezon City, Philippines—Four of the biggest rural based organizations in the country–the farmer’s group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the agricultural worker group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the Amihan peasant women federation on Friday declared “World Foodless Day” as the global people celebrate World Food Day.

The World Food Day is celebrated every October 16 after the United Nations (UN) established the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO)on the same day in 1981 or 28 years ago.

In a rally held at the Department of Agriculture, farmers and fisherfolk activists, KMP and allied groups said lack of food and hunger among food producers in the country has been a running nightmare among peasants and rural people all over the country.

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said landlessness is the principal reason why farmers and rural producers remain poor and hungry and injustice continues to thrive in every farming and fishing area across the country.

“Today is supposed to be 28th year of UN’s World Food Day. But there’s nothing to celebrate. In fact, our problems were further exacerbated by state sponsored calamities and disasters in partnership with their foreign clients,” added Ramos.

The KMP official was referring to the storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng and the mass flooding in Cordillera and Northern Luzon provinces, the Central Luzon and Southern Luzon region, including the current sorry state of Laguna Lake.

For his part, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap dared UNFAO officials to come to the country and investigate the government and big business destruction of major food baskets and food resources across the archipelago.

“It is high time for UNFAO to send its people to investigate the Philippine government and crimes of their transnational clients to the Filipino people. The request for UNFAO to dispatch a probe team to look into the serious food problem in the country is long overdue,” added Hicap.

KMP said the food problem was worsened by the two successive typhoons that recently hit the country. The peasant group said storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng already brought damage to agriculture and fisheries amounting to P 13.2 buillion, resulted to the death of 632 farmers and rural people and destroyed 140,156 houses in the countryside.

In the same vein, Pamalakaya complained that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is only interested in rehabilitating destroyed fishpens and bangus farms in Pangasinan and other parts of Western and Central Luzon, and agriculture secretary Arthur Yap did no mention of any help or assistance to small fishermen affected by typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng.

Secretary Yap will allocate P 2,500 per hectare for tilapia fishponds at 50 centavos per fingerling and P 1,750 per hectare for bangus farms at 35 centavos per fingerling, but he is silent to the legitimate demand of small fisherfolk for relief and rehabilitation.

An average of P 2,125 per hectare for 8,356 hectares of damage fishery areas, restocking could reach P 17.7 million. According to DA Central Action Center chief Maritess Bernardo some 5,000 tilapia fingerlings and bangus fries will be provided to affected fishponds and bangus farms in Central Luzon. Again there was no mention of small fisherfolk in the rehabilitation blue print of the agency.

“We are totally abandoned and neglected by Sec.Yap and his principal in Malacanang. We are the main fish producers in this country, but nothing is being planned to keep us maintain the wheel of production,” Pamalakaya added.

The estimated cost of rehabilitating damaged aquaculture farms in Central Luzon is part of the P 682 million fund earmarked by the agriculture department to repair damages to agriculture and fisheries caused by typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng.

On July, 2008, in the aftermath of typhoon Frank, our group submitted a proposal to DA and to the the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to accomodate the demand of the small fisherfolk for relief and production subsidies to small fisherfolk. A petition letter urging these agencies to set aside production subsidy of P 5,000 per fisherman who owns and operates a small motorized banca, while those operating non-motorized boat should at least receive P 2,500 per person was coursed to Secretary Yap’s office.

“This is to ensure that small fisherfolk can continue to operate and provide the fish needs of population. eighty percent of the proposed production subsidies will go to procurement of gasoline and fixing of damaged boats and fishery tools. But this demand remains in oblivion”, said Pamalakaya.

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Small fishermen not included in DA rehab plan, fishers group complains

Small fishermen not included in DA rehab plan, fishers group complains

By Maria Stella Recuerdo del Carriedo, contributor

Quezon City-The small fishermen affected by tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng are not included in the relief and rehabilitation plans of the Department of Agriculture, a militant fisherfolk federation said on Wednesday.

“This government is willing to spend millions of taxpayers money for big aquaculture operators to recoup their invested capitals, but not a single centavo for poor fisherfolk. It shows the extreme biased of this government to big fish lords and aquaculture monopolies by pursuing this bailout courtesy of public funds,” the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a press statement.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap was referring to the plan of agriculture secretary Arthur Yap to spend P 2,500 per hectare for tilapia fishponds at 50 centavos per fingerling and P 1,750 per hectare for bangus farms at 35 centavos per fingerling.

“How about the demand for relief the rehabilitation of small fisherfolk affected by Ondoy and Pepeng? Our poor fishermen deserved relief and rehabilitation assistance from the state. Do they?”, Hicap asked.

An average of P 2,125 per hectare for 8,356 hectares of damage fishery areas, restocking could reach P 17.7 million. According to DA Central Action Center chief Maritess Bernardo some 5,000 tilapia fingerlings and bangus fries will be provided to affected fishponds and bangus farms in Central Luzon.

The estimated cost of rehabilitating damaged aquaculture farms in Central Luzon is part of the P 682 million fund earmarked by the agriculture department to repair damages to agriculture and fisheries caused by typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng.

The Pamalakaya official suggested that DA and the the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources should set aside relief and production subsidies to small fisherfolk by an amount of P 5,000 per fisherman who owns and operates a small motorized banca, while those operating non-motorized boat should at least receive P 2,500 per person.

Hicap said this is to ensure that small fisherfolk can continue to operate and provide the fish needs of population. The Pamalakaya leader said 80 percent of the proposed production subsidies will go to procurement of gasoline and fixing of damaged boats and fishery tools.

The fisherfolk leader also agreed with the proposal of Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano that all financial aid alloted for relief and rehabilitation of the agriculture and fisheries sector should go directly to peasant organizations and fisherfolk associations to ensure that these funds are properly utilized, corruption free and would go directly to beneficiaries. #

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Pamalakaya demands P 32-billion production subsidy

Pamalakaya demands P 32-billion production subsidy

Manila, Philippines- Members of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list on Monday fried two kilos of assorted fish at the Department of Agriculture (DA) as a symbolic gesture of presenting their demand for P 32-billion yearly production subsidy to caution the impact of global economic and financial crisis.

“This fighting demand of the small fisherfolk for monthly production subsidy to arrest the uncontrollable hikes in the prices of petroleum products was submitted to the office Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap on July 2008. But nobody in this government wants to listen and our position paper was reduced into a scratch paper,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

Pamalakaya said the main purpose of the P 32-billion production subsidy is to keep the wheel of production in the fisheries sector moving, because it is currently battered by high prices of oil products and skyrocketing prices of fishing gears and equipments.

Under the annual P 32-billion production subsidy for the fisheries sector proposed by Pamalakaya, all fishermen who own a small motorized banca will receive a minimum P 4,500 monthly oil subsidy, while those who operate non-motorized banca will receive P 2,000 monthly production subsidy.

According to Hicap, the P 4,500 monthly subsidy constitutes about 50 percent of the monthly expenses spent by fishermen owning a small fishing boat in their daily fish capture. The Pamalakaya leader said the proposed measure if approved will benefit 313,985 small fishing boat operators and will cost the government a monthly production subsidy of P 1.4 billion per month or P 16 billion per year.

Pamalakaya’s proposal for production subsidy for 630,000 non-motorized fishing boats operators across the country, will cost the national government some of P1.3 billion per month or roughly P 15.67 billion per year. All in all, the total subsidy for a little over small fishermen will cost he government some P 32 billion in total production subsidies annually.

For her part, Anakpawis party list secretary general Cherry Clemente said 100 percent of the production subsidy for fisherfolk operators of small fishing boats will go to oil, while around 50 percent of the proposed subsidy for owners of non-motorized fishing boats will go to gas subsidy, while the rest will go to other production and food needs of small fishermen.

Clemente said the production subsidies for small fishermen could be addressed by immediately and indefinitely suspending the annual payments of foreign and domestic debts that eats up more than one-third of the annual national budget.

“The proposed fishery production subsidy program is about 10 percent of the national government’s allotment to debt servicing. It would be better if we suspend if not totally stop paying these fraudulent loans acquired and accumulated by the previous and present administrations for their own corruption purposes,” the Anakpawis official added.

Clemente also said the national government should also oblige commercial and aquaculture operators to give their fish workers the mandated minimum wage and certify as urgent the pending bill in both houses of Congress granting private workers a P 125 across the board, across the country wage increase.

To improve the purchasing power of the Filipino fishermen, the workers and the poor, both groups said the government should scrap the 12 percent expanded Value Added Tax on all petroleum products, consumer good, utilities and services.

“These are doable items and sound economic measures to ease the burden and cushion the impact of global economic and financial crisis. But this government is not listening to the concrete and legitimate demands of the people,” Anakpawis asserted.

Pamalakaya likewise dismissed the 700 jobs being offered by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Eastern Visayas to displaced fishermen as “pittance and highly trivial”.

“The small fisherfolk in Eastern Visayas are not begging for alms nor asking for some kind of charitable escapade from the national and local governments. They are asking for decent, sustaining and life-supporting production activities not pittance and super roadshow charity work from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, “ lamented Pamalakaya.

The fisherfolk group was referring to the P 4-million livelihood and emergency employment assistance fund released by DOLE-Region 8, which Forter Pugon, regional director of the employment department said would benefit about 700 marginal fishermen and displaced workers in the region.

Of the P 4-million, P 1.468 million was alloted by the DOLE Region 8 to employment generation projects billed as Integrated Services for Livelihood of the Fisherfolk (ISLA) and the Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD), which are currently being implemented in Lapinig town in Northern Samar.

Under the ISLA project of the labor department, the beneficiaries would undertake a small-scale fishing project in Lapinig town, using fish cage and other fishing methods. The project for small fisherfolk will also include enhancement trainings to prepare fisherfolk for another employment once the project is completed by concerned local government units. #

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Fish ban due to Balikatan in Bicol now in effect— Pamalakaya reports

Fish ban due to Balikatan in Bicol now in effect— Pamalakaya reports

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Tuesday said a Balikatan-induced fish ban in the form of curfew in three coastal towns— Tiwi, Tabaco and Malilipot, all in Albay province are now in progress affecting the fish capture activities of not less than 10,000 small fisherfolk.

The Balikatan-engineered fish ban in aid of curfew was the subject of this morning’s protest at the Department of Agriculture (DA), where fisherfolk activists denounced the fish ban. They asked Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to recall fish ban and add his voice to the mounting opposition against the series of RP-US joint military exercises scheduled in Masbate, Sorsogon, Albay and Camarines Sur this April.

Around 15 activists from Pamalakaya, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Amihan peasant women federation and the student group Nnara-Youth roasted a huge “tambakol” fish at the main entrance gate of agriculture department in Quezon City. Pamalakaya said “tambakol is one of the fish species, small fisherfolk used to catch in the fishing waters of the region.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap also challenged Secretary Yap to call for the scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and reject the proposal of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Reform (BFAR) Region V officer in charge Celso del Soccoro to implement a Bicol-wide fish ban once the Balikatan exercises go on full blast this April.

“The curfew ordinance in Tiwi, Tabaco and Malilipot is being effectively utilized to effect a fish ban during the Balikatan exercises. The three coastal areas in Albay are being used as pilot areas for the Bicol wide fish ban in the name of the RP-US Balikatan exercises and the VFA,” added Hicap.

According to Pamalakaya vice-chair for Luzon Salvador France, the local government units and barangay officials have started implementing 9-hour fish curfew and fish ban from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am since February 23.

“Fishermen usually go to the sea for fishing from 8:00 in the evening and they will go back home in the morning of next day. That’s the normal practice. Now because there’s an ongoing curfew that subjects all people from all age groups, the fisherfolk are effectively banned from fishing. We don’t usually fish from 5:00 in the morning to 8:00 in the evening, which is the time table now set for all fishing activities in Tiwi, Tabacco and Malilipot,” said France.

France said the implementation of curfew in three coastal towns of Albay confirmed previous report that the DA and BFAR will impose a six-month fish ban in Bicol region beginning April in connection with Balikatan exercises.

“We ask Secretary Arthur Yap to clarify this matter. The fish ban is tantamount to massacre of Bicolano fisher people rights and livelihood. This not only illegal, unconstitutional and immoral, but also super diabolical and all-out evil and puppetry. The VFA should be abrogated in order to stop the mass production of mayhem to the people,” said Pamalakaya.

The militant group said if fish ban is totally effected all over the Bicol region, it will affect the livelihood of more than 100,000 small fishermen in the provinces of Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate connecting the rich the fishing grounds of Albay Gulf, Ragay Gulf and Sorsogon Bay.

The US war ships are expected to carry some 3,000 regular US troops and personnel who will participate in the six-month joint military training.

Pamalakaya told Secretary Yap the six-month RP-US joint military exercises will affect the coastal municipalities and cities of Tiwi, Malilipot, Malinaw, Bacacay, Sto. Domingo, Manito, Rapu-Rapu, Legaspi City and Tabaco City in Albay province, and Prieto Diaz, Bacon, Gubat, Barcelona, Bulusan, Matnog, Casiguran, Bulan, Joban, Donsol, Pilar Magallanes, Castilla and Sorsogon City in Sorsogon province, and nearby coastal municipalities in Masbate province.

“We challenge Secretary Yap to rise above the occasion and add his voice against the Balikatan exercises in Bicol. The RP-US military exercises cannot and will never be a good substitute to the livelihood of the fisherfolk and the fish security of the people,” the group said.

“There’s no recourse for us but to face and fight this anti-fisherfolk Balikatan exercises in the sea, in the parliament of the street and in the court of public opinion. Over a hundred thousand fishermen will lose their livelihood to this crazy and shameful military stint known as Balikatan exercises. We will not allow this puppet government to sacrifice our rights and livelihood to please their Washington-based military puppeteer,” Pamalakaya said.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is expected to mobilize thousands of government troops and impose its intimidating presence in fishing communities to provide blanket security to US troops participating in the joint military exercises,” the group said.

Pamalakaya also said the RP-US Balikatan exercises were not only meant to gain future access to guerilla fronts maintained by the CPP and the NPA. The group said the joint military training exercises will also cover intelligence and military operations against militant groups in the region which the AFP and the US State Department labeled as front organizations of the CPP in the Bicol region.

“The sinister agenda of Balikatan exercises include intelligence work on various people’s organizations, their leaders and mass members highly critical of US military and economic interests in the Philippines, and very vocal against the reactionary troops and ruling puppet regime in Malacañang. This is Vietnam War in the making,” the group added. #

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Fishers group demands P 32- billion production subsidies to cushion impact of global economic crisis

Fishers group demands P 32- billion production subsidies to cushion impact of global economic crisis

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday pressed their demand for a P 32- billion production subsidies for small fishermen to cushion the impact of global economic crisis.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap suggested a minimum P 4,500 oil subsidy for all small fishermen operating small fishing boats and P 2,000 for non-motorized small fishing boat owners across-the-country.

The P 4,500 monthly subsidy constitutes about 50 percent of the monthly expenses spent by marginalized fishermen owning a small fishing boat in their daily fish capture. Hicap said the proposed measure if approved will benefit 313,985 small fishing boat operators and will cost the government a monthly production subsidy of P 1.4 billion per month or P 16 billion per year.

“We submitted the same production subsidy proposal to the Department of Agriculture at the height of the oil price increases last year. But Secretary Arthur Yap ignored our demand and dismissed our petition letter like one of those scratch of papers inside his office,” said Hicap.

Based on Pamalakaya’s proposal for production subsidy, for non-motorized fishing boats operators, the government will spend monthly subsidy of P1.3 billion or roughly P 15.67 billion per year. All in all, the total subsidy for a little over small fishermen will cost he government some P 32 billion in total production subsidies annually.

The Pamalakaya leader said 100 percent of the production subsidy for fisherfolk operators of small fishing boats will go to oil, while around 50 percent of the proposed subsidy for owners of non-motorized fishing boats will go to gas subsidy, while the rest will go to other production and food needs of small fishermen.

Pamalakaya’s Hicap said the production subsidies for small fishermen could be addressed by immediately and indefinitely suspending the annual payments of foreign and domestic debts that eats up more than P 300 billion of the annual national budget.

“The proposed fishery production subsidy program is about 10 percent of the national government’s allotment to debt servicing. It would be better if we suspend if not totally stop paying these fraudulent loans acquired and accumulated by the previous and present administrations for their own corruption purposes,” he added.

Pamalakaya said the national government should also oblige commercial and aquaculture operators to give their fish workers the mandated minimum wage and certify as urgent the pending bill in both houses of Congress granting private workers a P 125 across the board, across the country wage increase.

To recover and further enhance the purchasing power of the Filipino fishermen, the workers and the poor, Pamalakaya said the government should scrap the 12 percent expanded Value Added Tax on all petroleum products, consumer good, utilities and services.

“These are doable items and sound economic measures to ease the burden and cushion the impact of global economic crisis. What this government need is a strong political will. But the trouble is the will of this government is only meant for big time ticket for corruption and unstoppable subservience to transnational interest and class interest of the elite,” added Pamalakaya. #

They will brave the murky waters of Manila Bay to protest the unstoppable hikes in the prices of petroleum products

They will brave the murky waters of Manila Bay to protest the unstoppable hikes in the prices of petroleum products

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