Fisherfolk continue to remain as the “poorest of the poor”
It has been revealed by latest data on poverty that the fisherfolk continue to remain as the “poorest of the poor” among the basic sectors of the country. In the 2012 Philippine Statistical Authority report, it scored as high as 39.2% against the national poverty incidence of only 25.2%. This economically disadvantaged condition of the fisherfolk can be explained by a lot of factors including governance setbacks and for this very reason that we need to demand more from the new set of leaders that will be elected in this year coming national elections.
It is a fact that municipal fisherfolk suffered the most from Typhoon Yolanda. They were left with nothing as their boats and other fishing equipment were taken away by storm surge. This loss of livelihood for capture fisheries also impacted those who engage in fish vending. In the wake of the typhoon, they heavily relied on relief assistance and cash for work programs. Some non-government organizations and the government itself through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources also provided boats, fish cages, and gears to the fisherfolk to start up their economic activity. However, some fisherfolk from Brgy. 52 reported of this group of people from Samar who stole their boat engines and other fishing equipment. And just recently, the same incident of stealing was reported by members of the Tacloban Fisherfolk Urban Association who were robbed off of five motor boat engines. Understandably, even two years after Typhoon Yolanda, the conditions of most of the survivors particularly the fisher folks living along coastal communities is still far from the normal conditions.
With these, the NGO’s for Fisheries Reform initiated a Fisherfolk Agenda meeting last February 15, 2016 at Ritz Tower de Leyte, Tacloban City as part of the policy advocacy programs. Fisher folks, barangay leaders, fisherfolk associations and stakeholders actively participated the activity with the core purpose of formulating and developing fisherfolk agenda or programs as well as to solicit recommendations and support from municipal fishery sector. Primarily, the fisherfolk agenda meeting primarily revolved on the undying issues of livelihood in relation to their proposal of one year closed season of Cancabato Bay.
“We need for resourceful and efficient alternative livelihoods such as mussel & oyster culture, center house and drying technologies for fish drying, capital for peddling (e.g. sari sari store) and food vending as alternative sources of income. Kasi po nung una po bago mag Yolanda, meron po kaming center house na pwede kaming magluto at magtinda katulad ng puto, moron at iba pang kakanin. Ma-ishare ko lang po na mahirap talaga kung kaming mga kababaihan ay umaasa lang sa aming mga asawa kasi hindi naman lahat ng kita ngaming mga asawa ay nabibigay sa amin. Mahirap kasi halimbawa, kung hindi nabibigyan ng baon angaming mga anak, kaming mga ina at babae ang unang-una nasasaktan. Mahirap sa amin na makita sila na sa murang edad ay nakakaranas ng hirap. Kelangan talaga na kaming mga kababaihan ay may lakas (women empowerment) pati ang livelihood para naman makatulong kami sa aming pamilya ”, Ms. Saleha Badidles pointed out, leader of Rural Improvement Club (RIC), an organized women fisherfolk organization of Brgy. 83-A Tacloban City.
Aside from this, the reservation of the fisherfolk to the proposed resettlement program of the government is due to (1) its relative distance to the sea, the market, and schools, (2) the row house design of permanent houses does not fit to their socio-economic activities, and (3) the unclear provision on recovery cost. Given these concerns, consequently, most of the fisherfolk decided to rebuild their lives at their original dwelling locations near the sea instead of availing the resettlement program of the government.
“Kami po dito sa Brgy. 88, matagal na po naming hinaing ang magkaroon nalang ng onsite resettlement kasi po unang-una kahit sabihin man po na nasa danger zones po kami, wala po kaming ibang pagpipilian kundi ang manatili po dito kasi dito po kami nangingisda at naghahanapbuhay. Hindi naman araw-araw bagyo at may storm surge, ang hiling po naming ay ang concrete tenement na hindi aabutin ng baha or storm surge at solid na hindi agad o basta-basta magigiba ng bagyo. Ang resettlement po sa northern barangay ay malayo po dito sa aming pamumuhay sa dagat. Ang mga bahay doon ay walang sapat na supply ng tubig at kuryente. Mas kaya po naming manatili at magtiis dito kaysa doon na parang araw-araw ay kami ay magugutom at mas lalong maghihirap. Matagal na po naming itong isinusulong na kahit hanggang ngayon ay ang tingin pa rin naming sa aming mga sarili ay patuloy na biktima hindi na lang ng Yolanda pati na din ng gobyerno. Ngayon, malapit na ang eleksyon, madami na naman ang mga nangangako ng kung anu-ano pero pagkatapos ng eleksyon at sila ang manalo, ang hirap hirap mahagilap.”,laments Losanto “Ka Jun” Castillo, Jr. of the Tacloban Fisherfolk Urban Association.
Modasto Donsal of Tacloban Small Fish Vendors Association President also shared, “Ako na po ang tumayong Presidente ng aming association kasi matapos ang Yolanda, hindi na naging active ang ibang mga myembro namin. Noong 2014 pagkatapos ng Yolanda, ang DOLE at Peso office ay nagbigay ng mga forms para daw sa alternative livelihoods, kami dahil nga mga mangingisda kami at mahirap ang buhay sa dagat pagkatapos ng Yolanda, sinikap namin lahat nga mga requirements kahit walang-wala kaming pera. Halos nangutang kami para lang maipasa an gaming mga forms. Pagdating ng ilang buwan hanggang sa ngayon na 2016 na ay wala pa din po. Pumunta na kami sa legislative office at sa DOLE para i-follow up ang mga ito, pinagawa pa kami ng letter para dito. Ang sabi lang sa amin ay maghintay. Hanggang kelan po kami maghihintay? Dalawang taon na po matapos ang Yolanda. Patuloy po kaming maghihintay kung meron talagang mangyayari.Huwag naman po sana kaming paasahin”.
The recovery for Tacloban City may really take some time but despite the issues being thrown to both local and national government leaders, the coming 2016 elections still proved to be of crucial turning point in setting the direction for all the Taclobanons. NFR believes that Typhoon Yolanda has changed viewpoints and priorities of everyone in the city and has ignited the spirit of citizenship through active engagement with public affairs more than ever before.
Article written by Christian Salamida