A group of fishermen denounces the insufficiency of aid for fuel in a context of low fishing production

FILE PHOTO: WORLD FISHERIES DAY, November 21, 2017: (Photo by Ruth Lumibao/Bulatlat)


MANILA – A group of Filipino fishermen has urged the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to address declining fish production by providing sufficient aid, instead of using a “tambiolo” program.
“BFAR should seriously address the decline in fish production. This reflects the dire conditions faced by small-scale Filipino fishermen, with inadequate tools and insufficient capital to fish,” said Ronnel Arambulo, spokesperson for Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA).

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the value of production in agriculture and fisheries declined by 0.6%, covering the months of April to June 2022 – fisheries production fell contracted by 2.3% in the second quarter of the year.

To address this issue, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has expanded the distribution of fuel subsidies to maize farmers and fishers, entitling them to a 30% rebate on gasoline or diesel, a maximum of 3,000 pesos each.

Pamalakaya, however, said their local chapters in Laguna de Bay reported that the P3,000 fuel subsidy from the BFAR municipal office only affected 25 fishermen per village. To select the beneficiaries, the officials opted for a “tambiolo” or tombola system.

The group also reported that in fishing villages in Rizal province, 15 have been disqualified because their boats have not yet been registered due to budget constraints. They too used the tambiolo to identify eligible beneficiaries.

Pamalakaya found the tambiolo unacceptable system.

“The fuel subsidy is essential for all fishermen bearing the brunt of cumulative oil price increases. It is not and should not be gambling for our struggling fishing industry. Our livelihoods and the oil crisis must be taken seriously. We vehemently denounce this dubious method of distributing fuel subsidies to fishermen,” Arambulo said.

The recent oil crisis has made oil and gasoline prices equivalent to 80% of a fisherman’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 days of fishing, a fisherman pays PHP 8,960 ($172), which equates to an increase of PHP 1,760 ($34) in the monthly production cost.

The study also shows that small-scale fishermen in Zambales spent PHP 7,200 ($139) per month in 2021, which is comparable to monthly fuel expenses of PHP 8,960 ($172) for a liter of diesel priced at about PHP 56 ($1) today.

Meanwhile, former Pamalakaya lawmaker and national president Fernando Hicap said Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who also serves as agriculture secretary, has yet to deliver on his campaign promise to modernize the fishing industry to “help them improve their catches and make their journeys safer”.

“If the government is serious about cushioning the impacts of oil price hikes on marginalized sectors, then it must distribute fuel subsidies without restrictions or unfair preconditions,” Arambulo added. (JJE, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)