BenarNews / Radio Free Asia

Int'l - Restricted Access, Trawlers Hurt Small-Scale Fishermen in Philippines

Fishing group Pamalakaya leader blames commercial boats for depletion of stock in territorial waters.

Restrictions in Philippine territorial waters and the open seas, along with threats from large-scale fishing operations, are the biggest issues facing subsistence fishermen in this archipelagic country of 7,100 islands, according to an organization representing them.

In recent years, governments of coastal municipalities have begun restricting their “municipal fishing grounds,” or waters up to 15 km (9 miles) from the shore, allowing only resident fishermen who register with local authorities, said Fernando Hicap, chairman of Pamalakaya, a Philippine fishermen’s organization.

“Imagine, you’re a Filipino fisherman, you’re in the Philippines, and you’re on municipal fishing grounds, but you’re sued for illegal entry. How hurtful is that? Isn’t that wrong?” Hicap told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

“What misery. Add to that this [COVID-19] pandemic – no one’s buying what little catch they bring home because of the lockdowns,” said Hicap, adding that fishermen have little choice but to consume their own catch, or barter them for other small goods.

Municipalities are allowing outsiders to pay an annual fee, usually not lower than 1,000 pesos (U.S. $20) – a fee that subsistence fishermen, who use small-scale, low-technology practices, cannot afford to pay – according to Hicap’s group. Besides, it’s not feasible to register and pay fees at every coastal municipality to be able to fish in waters that have traditionally been communal to Filipinos.

Read more.