GMA News | 6 January 2009
Group files protest vs. poaching of Japanese tuna factory ships in RP
MANILA, Philippines — A national federation of small fisherfolk organizations in the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest Tuesday at the Japanese Embassy against poaching by Japanese tuna factory ships in waters off Aurora province.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) filed the protest at the office of Ambassador Makoto Katsura in the name of 1.8 million small Filipino fisherfolk
"We view this poaching and invasion activities of Japanese factory ships as gross violations of our national sovereignty and patrimony as people and as a nation, and therefore, we lodge this strongly worded protest in behalf of affected sector and in behalf of the 90 million Filipinos," said Pamalakaya in a letter to the ambassador.
Leading the protest were Fernando Laroga Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson, and Salvador France, vice national chairperson for Luzon.
The group filed the protest following Senator Edgardo Angara’s revelation last month that Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese fishing vessels regularly come to Baler Bay in Aurora province between January to July every year to fish for tuna.
Angara, who is from Baler, said eight fishing vessels, some with canneries, were seen almost daily during those months. His sister, Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, had 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 gears being used in the hauling of tuna, blue marlin and other high value fish species.
He said foreign fishing vessels even entered in the 15-kilometer municipal fishing waters from the shoreline.
Pamalakaya said a 3,000-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 standard, a single factory ship could harvest 50,000 metric tons of tuna per year.
Pamalakaya noted that if there are eight Japanese tuna 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.
According to Pamalakaya’s computation, the owners of the eight fishing vessels could have earned as much as US$1.274 billion or US$ 160 million per fishing vessel in just six months from tuna poaching in Aurora and other tuna-rich waters of the Philippine territory.
"Honorable Ambassador, 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 at the detriment and expense of our small tuna fishermen and the already fragile marine environment,’ the letter 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 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 Philippine archipelago.
Japan was once a leading tuna producer in Asia and in the world, but was 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 and high demand for tuna 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 and small fisherfolk across the archipelago, the group claimed.
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’ of livelihood of 180,000 tuna fishermen and fish workers, both leaders claimed.
Pamalakaya said the situation is very, very alarming. The Philippine waters which is part of the country’s national territory has become an open city for foreign fishing plunderers led by Japanese tuna fishing interests yet the Japanese government is not making any decisive action to stop this “gang rape" of Philippine tuna stocks" by Japanese tuna factory ships.