Oceana backs fair distribution of Bayanihan grant, Local Dev’t Fund to help fishers

April 12, 2020
Fisherfolks
Fisherfolks belonging to Taňon Strait Fisherfolk Federation sell the fish catch of their members in Cebu City. The fishes came all the way from Bantayan and Santa Fe in Northern Cebu that are the usual sources of fishes sold in Cebu City and all the way to Manila and Mindanao. According to reports received by Oceana, the traders in these towns have stopped operations since the community quarantine started two weeks ago.

“IN times of crisis, we know we can always rely on our fisherfolks to provide us with food on the table but this community quarantine has disrupted the supply chain that fishers find it difficult to adapt.”

This was the statement of Oceana as they received reports of fisherfolks not being able to sell some of their catch to fish dealers since the community quarantines started.

Oceana Vice President, Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, said a million artisanal fisherfolks depend on fishing for their livelihood. “They need lifelines from the local government units and national government agencies such as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in this difficult moment,” she added.

Ramos said fisherfolks have the capacity to support one another but they need significant assistance in hauling and transporting their catch from the landing to the local market and urban areas.

Oceana welcomes the news that the P30.824-billion “Bayanihan Grant to Cities and Municipalities” had been approved for release to boost their capacities to respond to the needs of their constituents amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Aňo reported that “the one-time grant to cities and municipalities is equivalent to one month of their Internal Revenue Allotment which they can use for their COVID-19 response and relief efforts.” He said that the funds should be used solely for programs, projects and activities on COVID-19 such as relief goods for low-income and vulnerable households; procurement of personal protective equipment for frontline service providers, medicines and vitamins, hospital equipment and supplies; disinfectants and related equipment; and tents for temporary shelter of the homeless, among others, irrespective of political affiliations and compliance with the “no EPAL” guidelines for relief distribution.

Likewise, DILG and the Department of Budget and Management signed a Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1 series of that allows local government units (LGUs) to utilize its 20 percent development fund to “undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate measures to curtail and eliminate the threat of COVID-19 in their areas.”

Ramos said the funds are much welcome support to our artisanal fisherfolk and other vulnerable sectors.

“Wala kaming kinikita kaya gumawa na kami ng paraan. Hindi mabenta ang mga isda sa ng mga kasama namin sa Bantayan at Santa Fe kaya kumilos na kami. Binili na namin at nagpatulong kami sa mga consolidators. Anong gagawin namin? Kailangan namin ng support sa hanapbuhay namin para may kainin ang pamilya namin. Kailangan din ito ng mga tao kasi hindi na sila makalabas para bumili ng pagkain,” related Venerando Carbon, President of Taňon Strait Fisherfolk Federation, based in Cebu City.

Carbon took the initiative of selling the fish harvested by their members direct to households in Cebu City. They welcomed this because they need not go out to buy in the market. He and his companions bought ice to put in their cold storage to ensure their fishes will not spoil.

Ramos also cited the work of Celso Ilustrisimo of the Maricaban Small Fisherfolk Association from Santa Fe, Bantayan Island, Cebu who bought fish from fellow members and sold these in the satellite market in their barangay.

Oceana reported that fish dealers in different parts of the country under Enhanced Community Quarantine have either stopped operations or commanded very low prices of fish in the market, citing the closure of hotels and resorts in Bantayan and Cebu City that are major destinations of their produce.

“Fisherfolks are front liners too. Like most vulnerable sectors affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, they are entitled support from the Bayanihan Fund and the 20 percent Local Development Fund. Local government units may consider collaborating with the national agencies to mitigate the adverse effect of community quarantine to fisherfolks by helping them haul, transport and sell fish catch at the right time and at reasonable prices,” said Ramos.

Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore the abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources.