GMA News | 12/27/2008
Fishing group complains of ’gang rape’ of tuna in Aurora waters
D’Jay Lazaro, GMANews.TV
MANILA, Philippines — The fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday decried the "gang rape" of the country’s tuna stocks by Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese companies poaching in the portions of Philippine Sea in Aurora province.
"We have brought this issue to the attention of Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs," Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said in a statement issued on Saturday. "But nobody is taking this very alarming matter seriously. This tin cup diplomacy of the Office of the President is grossly revolting."
"It is like a gang-rape of three powerful fishing nations with the consent and blessing of Malacañang," Hicap added. "President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her foreign affairs officials are just watching from a distant the gang-raping of the country’s tuna stocks by big time corporate plunderers."
Hicap had earlier urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to probe the alleged entry of foreign fishing vessels owned by Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese companies fishing for tuna in the portions of Philippine Sea in Aurora province.
Pamalakaya had also asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo to protest this regular gobbling up of marine resources that should be reserved for the livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk and for food needed by close to 90 million Filipinos.
"Secretary Romulo should immediately notify the embassies and consulates of these countries in Manila and lodge a strongly worded diplomatic protest for violating the country’s national patrimony and sovereignty," Hicap said. "If he will not do that, we will write our own diplomatic protest and stage mass actions in the embassies of these countries."
Pamalakaya is now preparing letters of diplomatic protest against the governments of Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea over the intrusion of their factory ships in Philippine waters to be submitted to their embassies and consulates in Manila.
The group will also furnish the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs currently chaired by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs chaired by Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and House Speaker Prospero Nograles.
Sen. Edgardo Angara said that Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese fishing vessels regularly come between January to July every year to fish for tuna. He said the haul cannot be ascertained but the lawmaker said eight fishing vessels, some with canneries, were seen almost daily during those months.
Angara’s sister, Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo had earlier asked the Philippine Coast Guard to establish a station in Northern Aurora and assign patrol boats to protect the province’s waters from foreign poachers.
According to Aurora provincial fishery officer Victoriano San Pedro, fishermen reported seeing
long-line fishing gear being used in the hauling of tuna, blue marlin, and other high-value fish. He said foreign fishing vessels even entered in the 15-kilometer municipal fishing waters from the shoreline.
Hicap said a 3,000 single-ton tuna factory ship, accompanied by support fishing fleets can catch as much as 150 metric tons of tuna on a 24-hour operation basis. By industry standards, a single factory ship could harvest 50,000 metric tons of tuna per year.
“Let us say there are eight fishing vessels that regularly poach in the waters of Aurora province daily from January to July, that means a total haul of 27,000 tons of tuna per factory ship during the period or 216,000 metric tons of tuna for all eight fishing vessels regardless if they are Japanese, Korean or Taiwanese," Hicap said.
According to Pamalakaya’s computation, the owners of the eight fishing vessels could have earned as much as $ 1.274 billion, or $160 million per fishing vessel, in just six months from tuna poaching in Aurora and other tuna-rich waters of the Philippines.
Pamalakaya said the situation is expected to get worse with the Senate ratification of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) last October because under the one-sided agreement, the Philippine government fully recognizes the entry of Japanese factory ships into the Philippine waters.
“That’s one of the major consequences and implications of Jpepa," Hicap said. "Ironically, Senator Angara is one of the senators that actively sponsored and argued for the RP-Japan trade pact ratification. Now his province is being made as a sacrifice to the altar of this onerous economic partnership pact."
Pamalakaya said Japan is known to consume 630,000 tons of tuna per year or 11 pounds of tuna per person. With the current shrinking catch in Japan seas and in the Atlantic areas, Japanese tuna groups are targeting the Philippines as its’ one of the major sources of tuna in Southeast Asia, particularly the country’s fishing areas with confirmed rich tuna deposits like the Moro Gulf and Celebes Sea in Mindanao, the Northern Aurora waters, and other tuna potential areas across the archipelago.
Japan was once a leading tuna producer in Asia and in the world, but has been overtaken by Taiwan in recent years. The other tuna producers are the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, and China.
Japan is now reviving its interest in tuna, because of the scarcity of supply of tuna and the high demand for it, which is equivalent to lucrative business and promise of huge return on Japanese investments.
“The fishing aspect of Jpepa is meant for the benefit and survival of Japan’s commercial tuna fishing at the expense of Filipino tuna producers. Now tell us Senator Angara: Is this the price the country’s fisherfolk had to pay for that economic pact?" Hicap said.
"With the increase in the supply of tuna produced by Japanese factory ships and their shipment to Japan and other countries, the local tuna producers and small tuna fishermen would be at their mercy by way of depressed prices, or worst when tuna stocks in Philippine EEZ are depleted it could lead to supply constraints and closure of local tuna producers’ processing plants and the massacre of jobs and source of livelihood of 180,000 tuna fishermen and fish workers," Hicap added.