Manila, Philippines – Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao condemned the martial law-like barring of a fluvial protest organized by the fisherfolk group Pamalakaya – Pilipinas in Manila Bay to mark the World Fisheries Day yesterday. The 20-boat fluvial protest was blocked by elements of the Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine National Police while it was threading the bay near Malate, Manila while absurdly citing that they were not violating any laws but vaguely invoking the “no sail zone” order that coincided with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit recently held in the country.
The protesters, that included fishermen from Navotas and Cavite, as well as environmental activists, were supposed to travel towards the Senate seaside, where they will submit their position papers to Senator Win Gatchalian and Sonny Angara opposing the government’s National Reclamation Plan (NRP). NRP is targeting about 30,000 hectares of bay areas for its 42 listed projects.
“Blatant violation of the people’s rights to grievance and protest comes about when the government itself is the promoter of impunity and trampling of democratic principles. The PCG had no basis to obstruct the protest but still they did so, thinking that they are unaccountable and could easily step on the basic rights of marginalized sectors,” Casilao said in a statement.
Casilao vowed to push for a house probe on the incident to demand liability to those responsible. The group’s leader and national chairperson Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap is the former representative of Anakpawis during the 16th congress.
In the country, the fishefolk sector is among the poorest of the poor, and they are continuously being victimized by repressive policies brought about by the Republic Act No. 8550 Fisheries Code and its amendments RA 10654. The laws are comprised by provisions imposing expensive and detrimental requirements for the small fishermen, as well as, exorbitant fines for simple violations. While they yield to its implementation, big commercial fishing vessels and private operators of fish cages are systematically grabbing fishing grounds that lead to small or municipal fishermen’s ever-dwindling fish catch.
To worsen, while already suffering low income, they are being displaced from their communities are being subjected to reclamation projects via the NRP and conversion to eco-tourism zones. They are also opposing the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Duterte administration, as obviously their welfare were not considered and it would lead to their displacement, such as what was carried out on the rehabilitation of areas hit by typhoon Yolanda, where the “no build, no dwell” zone was strictly executed. The government puts the population of small fisherfolk to 1.7 million across the country.
“The country is composed of more than 7,000 islands, but the Filipino fisherfolk sector is marginalized and deprived of their rights to livelihood, land and dwelling. All anti-poverty blabber of Duterte is nonsensical if the sector’s welfare is not taken into account,” the lawmaker said.
Casilao said that Duterte’s continuing subservience to the neo-liberal dogma, particularly on the export-orientation of the fishing industry, if to continue affecting the sector, it will be his serious problem if at least a significant part of nearing 2-million fisherfolk is already out on the streets protesting his governance. ###