Anakpawis slams continuing abuses against fisherfolk and farmers in Palawan

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Fish in Basket

The militant Anakpawis Party-list group slammed on Sunday  the continuing abuses against the poor fisherfolk and poor farmers in Taytay town, Palawan province.

This, Anakpawis said as the Tanggol Magsasaka network concluded its two-day fact-finding mission in Taytay town in the province.

The fact-finding team composed of representatives from Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA – TK), Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Karapatan, Children’s Resource Center (CRC), People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN), Ibon International, partnered with the Pamalakaya-Palawan, Pamalakaya Paly Island (Taytay), and Pinagkaisang Lakas ng mga Okupante, Residente, Manggagawa, Magsasaka at Mangingisda (PLORMMM). The team carried out data-gathering on February 19 in Paly Island and February 20 in Sitio Montevista of the said town.

“The local governments in Palawan, in collusion with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the Philippine Marines, are waging an all-out oppression against the poor sectors, a cocktail of massive red-tagging campaigns, coercion, harassment and other abuses, matched with anti-people issuances, pertaining to the local fisheries sector,” former representative Ariel Casilao said in a press statement Sunday.

The fact-finding mission primarily documented the mass deception being peddled by various local government units (LGUs) that members of Pamalakaya in Palawan and Paly island, Anakpawis and PLORMMM are members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“This is a classic counter-insurgency approach where people’s organizations who are militantly asserting the basic rights of marginalized sectors are red-tagged, as part of its isolation and intimidation campaign. While it is a fact, that these organizations were able to achieve significant gains for the interest of the poor,” Casilao said.

Local Pamalakaya leaders Ruel Araneta of Paly Island and Annalie Delos Santos shared that their group campaigned and achieved gains in: in 2016, against excessive fees such as P350 for “pana,” thus, P1,400 for usually four pieces being used per boat, and P150 for nylon cord; in 2016, the fishing ban for “Lapu-lapu” was suspended; in 2016, the closed season was narrowed down from 6 to 3 months (end of December to end of May, to March 1 to end of May); in 2019, suspension of the 1-year closed season. And due to these, it faced reprisals from local officials particularly Palawan governor Jose Alvarez and Taytay Mayor Romy Salvame.

Alvarez is the chairperson of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) that issued the Revised PCSD Administrative Order No. 5, that regulated the catching of “suno” or “lapu-lapu,” which is a reliable source of income of poor fisherfolk families in the province.

The order orignally set a 6-month closed season, but as it was heavily opposed by many fisherfolk, led by Pamalakaya, it was narrowed down to March to May, while the open season was set to June to February. Still, poor fisherfolk are demanding for the closed season to be moved on a different period, as the open season covers the period of typhoon season and “amihan” or the northeast monsoon.

“It appears that AO5 is an instrument to cut off poor fishermen from catching ‘lapu-lapu,’ as their small boats face hardships against strong winds, while big commercial vessels do the plunder. This is a local ordinance brought about by the Fisheries Code, that empowered LGUs to impose rules on the fisheries sector,” he slammed.

He branded it as “undemocratic” and vowed to craft resolutions for both chambers of congress, if the local fisherfolk approves of this proposal. The order threw poor fisherfolk families to worsened state of poverty and hunger as their reliable source of household income was restricted. Local lapu-lapu’s farmgate prices range from P800 (bad size) to P2,500 (good size) per kilo, depending on its weight.

On the case of PLORMMM, Casilao has authored the House Resolution No. 1851 during the 17th congress. It pushed to probe the land distribution of the 1,265-hectare former Pujalte Estate covered by the Republic Act 6657 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in 1990 and the threat of displacement of farmer-beneficiaries due to land grabbing by Guevent Industrial Dev’t. Corp.

The fact-finding mission documented that members of PLORMMM were coerced by elements of the Philippine Marines to sign a template affidavit stating their resignation from the group. Refusal meant continued subjection to harassment, where armed personnel carried out house-to-house operations and intimidated farmers.

“Both cases involved the collusion of the military and LGUs, on a supposedly constitutional and legal endeavor of the people’s freedom to association, expression and grievance. This is the local manifestation of the national issuance Executive Order 70 of President Duterte,” the former lawmaker briefed.

Executive Order 70 formed the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) who are now waging a “whole-of-nation” approach, or simply targeting legal and democratic activists, predominantly by red-tagging campaigns, harassment and intimidation.

Finally, he lauded the local fisherfolk and farmers of Palawan who are asserting their rights to land and livelihood and against tyrannical rule of “little dictators” in the province.

“We are already mulling protest actions at the national office of Guevent, or filing of cases at the Ombudsman against local officals, which are all subject to the approval of the affected victims. In any way, Anakpawis will support the struggle of Palawan fisherfolk and farmers against abuses and anti-people policies,” he ended. /Stacy Ang

 

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