By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Fishers’ group Pamalakaya urged the government to give economic support to fisherfolk affected by the oil spill.
According to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), there are 13,000 fishermen affected by the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro alone.
The oil spill, which started off the coast Oriental Mindoro, continues to spread in the seas off the coast of the provinces of Palawan and some areas of Panay Island.
“Even Palawan, which has a significant number of fishermen and contribution to the country’s fish production, is already affected,” Pamalakaya National Chairperson Fernando Hicap said in a statement.
Recent news reports revealed that the spill is also threatening to reach the Verde Island Passage by March 16.
Verde Island Passage is known to be one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world.
Hicap said that they received reports from its allied organization, Save Antique Movement, that in Semirara Island in Caluya, Antique, more than 1,200 fishermen are already unable to fish for more than a week already.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development in an earlier statement said that it has distributed food packs to affected areas of the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro.
The department also started its cash-for-work program, also in Oriental Mindoro.
Hicap said the government should provide more support to small fisherfolk.
Hicap also urged the government to prepare for the possible impacts of the oil spill on fish production.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the group said that in the second quarter of 2022, Palawan and Oriental Mindoro contributed 86.79 percent and 2.57 percent to the total regional fisheries production, respectively. This translates to 59,895.53 metric tons in the local fisheries production.
However, Hicap pointed out that importing fish is not the solution as this will only affect local production and the local fishermen.
Earlier, Pamalakaya urged the government to prepare a contingency plan for potential ecological disturbances caused by the oil spill such as fish kills, as the spill adversely affects mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass.
Last Feb. 28, the MT Princess Empress capsized in the waters of Oriental Mindoro. The boat was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial oil. A news report said the oil spill affected 34 locally managed marine protected areas in 10 municipalities and some 36,000 hectares of coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass. (RTS, RVO)