Palawan fisherfolk lament fishing regulation, harassment by state agents

Fisherfolk in Paly Island in Taytay, Palawan complain of the new fishing regulation, which affects their livelihood. (Photo courtesy of Tanggol Magsasaka)
In both communities, the farmers and fisherfolk are being deprived of their right to produce food and sources of livelihood, and consequently throwing them to hunger, essentially violating their right to food.”

By ADAM ANG
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – An administrative order regulating the fishing activities is hurting the livelihood of Palawan fisherfolk, according to a recent fact-finding mission.

Residents of Paly island complained about the revised Administrative Order No. 5 of Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), which regulates the catching of “suno” or leopard coral trout.

Originally, the order set a six-month closed season of catching the trout species locally known as “lapu-lapu,” then following fishers’ opposition, it was narrowed down from March to May. The open season was set from June to February, which pained the locals more as it covers the period of prevalent typhoons, as well as the passing of the northeast monsoon.

Former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao described the ordinance as “undemocratic,” claiming it “threw poor fisherfolk families to worsened state of poverty and hunger as their reliable source of household income was restricted.”

“It appears that AO5 is an instrument to cut off poor fishermen from catching ‘lapu-lapu,’ as their small boats face hardships against strong winds, while big commercial vessels do the plunder,” he said.

Local suno farmgate prices range from P80/$15.67 (for bad size) to P2,500/$48.96 (for good size) per kilogram, depending on its weight.

In a protest action held in Manila, Monday, on the 22nd year of the implementation of RA 8550 or the Fisheries Code of 1998, peasant women’s group Amihan denounced AO No. 5 as the manifestation of the said law.

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Amihan Chairperson Zenaido Soriano, echoing Casilao’s sentiment, claimed the ordinance is “restricting the sources of livelihood of poor fisherfolk families.”

Threat of displacement underscored

Meanwhile, farmers in sitio Montevista, Taytay, Palawan are facing displacement from their communities to make way for a 400-hectare bamboo plantation owned by an investment firm.

Casilao first pushed a probe on this alleged threat by investment firm Guevent Investments Development Corporation during his stint in the 17th Congress.

According to Casilao, their group is preparing cases to the Ombudsman against local officials involved in the various rights issues uncovered in the two-day fact-finding mission.

“In both communities, the farmers and fisherfolk are being deprived of their right to produce food and sources of livelihood, and consequently throwing them to hunger, essentially violating their right to food,” Eddie Billiones, spokesperson of Tanggol Magsasaka spokesperson said in a separate statement.

Rights abuses recorded

The mission also recorded cases of military abuses and red-tagging of local residents.

In sitio Montevista, some elements of the 3rd Marine Brigade repeatedly entered the homes of some members of Pinagkaisang Lakas ng mga Okupante, Residente, Manggagawa, Magsasaka, at Mangingisda (PLORMM), forcing them to sign affidavits stating their resignation from the organization, according to a team of people’s organizations led by farmers’ rights network Tanggol Magsasaka.

“The marine soldiers were in full-battle gear. Their guns were out. And they asked me if I love my children and wife,” Tanggol Magsasaka cited one interviewee in a press statement.

“They were forcing us to sign the affidavits and they were not explaining if what are those for. I asked myself, why do I have to sign? I haven’t made any mistake,” another respondent was quoted as saying.

Elements of the Marines stay outside the barangay hall while members of the fact-finding mission hold a courtesy call with barangay officials in Montevista, Taytay in Palawan. (Photo courtesy of Tangol Magsasaka)

The members of said organization, peasant party-list group Anakpawis claimed, were subjected to red-tagging, linking their group to New People’s Army (NPA).

Meanwhile, in Paly island, some elements from the same marine unit were reportedly going in and out of the premises of Paly National High School to conduct civic military operations, which child’s rights group Children’s Rehabilitation Center denounced as a violation of Article 10, Sec. 22 of RA 7610 or the provision that declares children as zones of peace.

Children of Paly island talk about the presence of Marines in their school premises. (Photo courtesy of Tanggol Magsasaka)

The two cases of military conduct in the Taytay villages were said to be in concert with President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) 70, which created the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“Both cases involved the collusion of the military and LGUs, on a supposedly constitutional and legal endeavor of the people’s freedom to association, expression and grievance. This is the local manifestation of the national issuance Executive Order 70 of President Duterte,” Casilao said.

The humanitarian mission was held last February 19-20 by a team composed of representatives from various organizations, including Kasama-Timog Katagalugan, Pamalakaya, Karapatan, Asia Pacific Research Network, IBON International, and the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty.

“The impoverished and persecuted state of fisherfolk and peasant women of Taytay is clearly the by-product of both government policies, the Fisheries Code and its local manifestation, the PCSD AO5, and Duterte’s authoritarian EO70,” Soriano said.()

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