Group warns BFAR on law enforcement fund

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THE militant fisher folk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday called for the scrapping of the 2018 budget of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) allocated for the Fisheries Regulatory and Law Enforcement Program worth P697.7 million.

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The amount forms part of the bureau’s P5.9-billion proposed budget in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2018.

The group said the law enforcement program will expand BFAR’s arming of small fishermen assigned as bantay dagat or sea patrol whose task is to go after other fishermen who will be charged for illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, or violating the amended Fisheries Code.

The group claimed the campaign against illegal fishing results in vigilantism and abuse of authority.

Pamalakaya recalled the harassment by deputized sea patrol personnel in Barangay Papaya, Nasugbu, Batangas last July 17 where they beat and forced five fishermen to jump off the water, resulting in a one fisherman dying. Four other fishermen were reportedly wounded.

“Arming the fishermen and tasking them to become sea enforcers are alarming and disturbing. Instead of fishing nets, doing the usual fishing activities, fisher folk who are assigned as sea patrols are loaded with arms, aiming toward other fishermen only to comply with BFAR’s mandate of curbing illegal fishing activities,” Fernando Hicap, the group’s chairman, said in a statement.

Pamalakaya instead called for the rechanneling of the budget to calamity and disaster resiliency so the bureau can quickly provide economic aid and rehabilitation to fisher folk affected by future natural disasters like typhoons, earthquakes, storm surges and other ecosystem disturbances such as red tide, fish kills, among others.

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