By BRELL LACERNA
MANILA – A group of Filipino fisherfolk urged the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to address the declining fisheries output by providing sufficient aid, instead of using a “tambiolo” scheme.
“BFAR should seriously address the decline in fish production. It reflects the dire conditions that small Filipino fisherfolk are facing, with inadequate tools and insufficient capital to fish,” said Ronnel Arambulo, spokesperson of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA).
The Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the value production in agriculture and fisheries declined by 0.6 percent, covering the months of April to June 2022 — with fisheries production contracted by 2.3 percent in the second quarter of the year.
To address this, the Department of Agriculture (DA) expanded the distribution of fuel subsidies to corn farmers and fisherfolk, which entitles them to a 30-percent discount on gasoline or diesel, at a maximum of P3,000 each.
Pamalakaya, however, said that their local chapters in Laguna de Bay reported the P3,000 fuel subsidy from the municipal office of BFAR was only for 25 fishers per village. To select the beneficiaries, officials opted for a “tambiolo” or raffle system.
The group also reported that in fishing villages in Rizal Province, 15 were disqualified because their boats have yet to be registered due to budget constraints. They, too, used the tambiolo to identify eligible beneficiaries.
Pamalakaya found the tambiolo system unacceptable.
“Fuel subsidy is essential to every fisherfolk who bears the brunt of the cumulative oil price increases. It is not, and should not be a game of chances for our ailing fishing sector. Our livelihoods and the oil crisis should be addressed seriously. We vehemently denounce this questionable method of distributing fuel subsidies to fisherfolks,” Arambulo said.
The recent oil crisis made prices of oil and gasoline equivalent to 80 percent of a fisher’s production costs. According to a study conducted by Pamalakaya, small-scale fishermen who regularly consume about 10 liters of diesel now need PHP 560 ($11) per day. For every 16 fishing days, a fisher pays PHP 8,960 ($172), equivalent to a PHP 1760 ($34) increase in monthly production cost.
The study also shows that small-scale fisherfolk in Zambales spent PHP 7,200 ($139) per month in 2021, comparable to the PHP 8,960 ($172) monthly fuel expenses for a liter of diesel priced at about PHP 56 ($1) today.
Meanwhile, former lawmaker and Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said that Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who also sits as agriculture secretary, has yet to deliver his campaign promise of modernizing the fishing industry to “help them improve their catch and make their voyage safer”.
“If the government really wants to cushion the impacts of oil price hikes to marginalized sectors, then they must have fuel subsidies distributed sans unjust restrictions and prerequisites,” Arambulo added. (JJE, RVO)