Fisherfolk group demands P15K subsidy, fishing tools from BFAR
By Mavic Conde
A year after the region was placed under a lockdown, small fisherfolk group Lakas ng Mangingisda sa Bicol (LAMBAT-Bicol) filed a petition for better pandemic aid from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
“We, the Bicol fisherfolk, unite to request for a dialogue with BFAR-5 today about our petition for 15,000 pesos subsidy and fishing tools,” LAMBAT Bicol president Elwin Mangampo said in a news release.
According to Mangampo, the crisis brought by the pandemic and the three devastating typhoons that hit the region in 2020 make the aid provided by BFAR insufficient while other fisherfolk have yet to receive assistance from the agency.
Department of Agriculture Bicol spokesperson Emilia Bordado told Bicol Mail via email that to date 13,902 fisherfolk have received cash assistance worth P3,000 and food assistance, which included rice, dressed chicken and eggs worth P2,000 from BFAR under the DA’s Cash & Food Subsidy Program during the pandemic, adding that the “distribution for the targeted qualified beneficiaries is still on going.”
There are also relief goods from respective local governments worth P200-P300 per pack comprising three kilos of rice and a few canned goods, according to Mangampo.
But even these additional aid did not fill the enormous impacts of the lockdown, especially on their ability to fish and sell as the recent typhoons damaged their fishing boats and nets.
Not all fisherfolk families also qualified for the P5,000 cash aid from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). According to the group’s news release, there are about a million fisherfolk families in the region.
“The current aid is really not enough for the needs of the fisherfolk and their families, and the recipients so far are less than 10 perrcent of the total number of fisherfolk in towns,” the group’s news release read.
The group also lamented how the fisherfolk receive the smallest cash assistance compared to other essential workers. “Earlier, cash assistance worth P5,000 were also distributed to rice farmers under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program,” according to the DA.
It also urged the DA to not make the Registered System for Basic Sector in Agriculture the ultimate basis for determining beneficiaries. “Any fisherfolk affected should qualify for aid whether they have registered in the database or not,” the group said.
Moreover, it urged DA to help in protecting fisherfolk activists and progressive groups that they belong to given the threat posed by the Anti-Terrorism Act to dissenting individuals and groups.