Rep. Kaka J. Bag-ao, AKBAYAN Partylist

Committee on Aquaculture and Fisheries Development

November 23, 2011


Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

Last May 10, 2011, I delivered a privilege speech on the inadequate protection being given to our fisherfolks.

As I have previously stated in my privilege speech, the Philippines, as an archipelago, has very rich and abundant marine and aquatic resources.  This has made us among the world’s 40 largest fish producing countries, providing a livelihood to more than two million Filipinos. In fact, data shows that fisheries contribute around 4.3 % of our GDP and 18% of the gross-value added. It is also one of the Filipino’s main sources of food, second only to rice.

Despite these crucial factors which highlight the importance of the fishing industry, our fisherfolk sector remains to be one of the poorest among the poor and continues to confront major problems such as the issue of tenurial security.  More than 60% of the people residing in coastal areas are at risk of strong wave surges and typhoons or being claimed by individuals. Traditional routes to fishing grounds, areas for seaweed and fish drying are being privatized and commercialized resulting to displacement of municipal fisherfolks.

The fisherfolks however are not without protection regarding displacement.  Sec. 108 of RA 8850 mandates the government to establish and create fisherfolk settlement areas in coordination with concerned agencies of the government, where certain areas of the public domain, specifically near the fishing grounds, shall be reserved for the settlement of the municipal fisherfolk.

Unfortunately, even after thirteen years from the enactment of the law in 1998, the Department of Agriculture, through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources failed to issue the proper implementing rules to implement the spirit of Section 108.

In my recent consultation with our fisherfolks, I was informed of instances that emphasize the immediate need to implement Section 108 and finally protect them from displacement.  Nanay Rosing from Zambales came home one day and was informed that the land she calls home for her entire life is not hers and was now sold to someone from Quezon City.  Another fisherfolk said that they were removed from their residences near the coast because it was supposedly dangerous without however, providing them a viable settlement where they can continue with their livelihood with similar ease and accessibility.  In fact, this lack of viable settlement and non-implementation of Section 108 may have forced some fisherfolks to set up houses along danger zones.

Mga kasamahan kong mambabatas, our fisherfolks are not asking to be granted new rights. They are merely asking for the implementation of the rights long been granted to them by the Constitution.  Section 7, Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution mandates the State to protect the rights of subsistence fishermen, especially of local communities, to the preferential use of local marine and fishing resources, both inland and offshore.  The right of fisherfolks to land tenure also finds basis not only in RA 8550 or the Fisheries Code of 1998 but also in RA 7160 or the Local Government Code and RA 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act. Despite this fact, our fisherfolks are still saddled with problems on land tenure and displacement which should have long been remedied by the aforementioned laws.

Fellow lawmakers, the laws that we enact, how noble they may be, are rendered useless if they will not be implemented. With this hearing, we hope to propose a solution to this vacuum in our system of delivering basic services to our underprivileged sectors.

Maraming salamat!

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