By Chaka Miles and Portnip Pakangcharap
MANILA, Philippines — The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) accused the Aquino government of neglecting fisheries course in the country. ‘It is ironic, very ironic. Imagine an archipelagic country with 7,101 islands during low tide and 7,100 islands during high tide and separated by bodies of water have only 500 professional fisheries officers all over the country”, said Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz in press statement.
The Pamalakaya information chief accused President Benigno Simeon Aquino III of misappropriating taxpayers’ money by allocating budget for payment of onerous debts, awarding tax holidays and corporate subsidies to transnational exploiters and obsessed with increasing military spending.
“President Aquino's rock-bottom disregard on the sorry state of Philippine fisheries is unacceptable and highly deplorable With this treatment, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources or BFAR appears like a renting a small space in old downtown Manila, under staffed and lacking in experts which is miserable compared to the vast fishery resources which it should manage and protect in municipal fishing and offshore waters,” added Corpuz.
Pamalakaya reacted to a report that fisheries schools all over the country continue to suffer huge drop in annual employment. The group said this year only 87 passed the board examination for new fisheries officials and the Philippine Regulations Commission (PRC) monitored that that are only 500 licensed fisheries officials all over the country.
“The low regard for local fisheries is highly evident since time immemorial. Worse, the Philippine government is set approve the proposed P 45-billion modernization fund for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the next three years. The government has money for senseless and stupid far, but no funds to develop local fisheries for food needs of the people,” the militant fisherfolk alliance lamented.
Pamalakaya said the national government should step up an across-the-nation drive to promote fisheries courses in the country and allocate public funds for educational and institutional support and other forms of state subsidies.
The militant group said the 2013 national budget should also put premium in developing pro-people scientific research that would deal on different concerns like climate change, disaster preparedness, environmental protection and production improvement promoting food for domestic consumption and highly opposed to export-oriented and import dependent fisheries.
Pamalakaya suggested that all fishing provinces should have fisheries schools offering fishery courses to students and should be subsidized by the national government to attract more young people instead of promoting courses attuned to the needs of neo-liberal globalization and corporate interests.
BFAR Director Asis Perez admitted there is a drastic cut in total enrollment in fisheries schools enrolling in fisheries forcing some schools to close their offering the agricultural-based course. The BFAR chief said the country has a huge scope of responsibility that is six times bigger than the land area of the country. And that excludes the 200-kilometers exclusive economic zone,” he said, referring to the municipal waters that are within the 15 kilometers from the shoreline.
Director Asis said to encourage fresh interest in the course; the fisheries department would ask the 800 local governments in the coastal areas “to open up at least one post on fisheries officer.” He said BFAR would shoulder 50 percent of the salary of its fisheries officer for the next two years to encourage local governments to hire fisheries officials.