The local name of the typhoon should have been warning enough.
With a name like ‘Labuyo,’ it should have been clear to one and all that the storm that hit the northern part of the country this week was as deadly and as dangerous as they come.
It therefore comes as a shock to learn that there were still fishermen who dared head out to sea to ply their trade while the storm was raging.
As of this writing, more than two dozen fishermen onboard three boats have gone missing off the coast of Pangasinan, while around 20 from Catanduanes and Camarines Norte were likewise unaccounted for.
The vast majority of Filipino fishermen sail on boats that are not designed to survive harsh weather conditions. It is therefore imperative that they be warned in advance that going out to sea is too dangerous for them.
Local government units can air warnings on radio, ask churches to toll their bells, or sound sirens close to the coastlines.
If, after all the warnings have been raised they still opt to sail out, then the Philippine Coast Guard should be alerted, or local authorities should take the necessary steps to prevent the probable disaster that will certainly take place, with the fishermen foolish enough to believe nothing could happen to them.
In so many instances, the fishermen are in denial. They believe that they know the seas better than anyone, and that nothing bad sould happen to them during typhoons.
This is one reason why loss of life is so common among our citizens who depend on the seas for their livelihood, especially during the typhoon season. Some will say that they need to go out to sea despite the deadly weather because they are so poor they cannot afford not to work for a single day.
Such logic is irrational, of course. Anyone who tempts the fates will one day pay the price, and there is nothing so horrible as to lose one’s life on a stormy sea. In many cases, the remains of the drowned fishermen are never found.
Perhaps the government should now pay greater attention to the plight of the Filipino fisherman. This is one sector that is usually left to fend for itself. This is a shame because the fisheries sector is one of the pillars of our food security.
The country is currently in the midst of an ongoing dispute with China over its waters. The reason is clear. Our waters are teeming with fish and other marine life, which is one of our primary sources of food. Yet the men – and women, to be sure – whose daily catch eventually lands on the dining tables of millions of Filipinos are not given the same support as our farmers.
They are not provided the same kinds of easy loans, nor rewarded and praised by our politicians and business community for outstanding production, and are hardly ever hailed as the heroes that they are.
It is hoped that all the fishermen who risked life and limb to harvest food from the seas at the height of Typhoon Labuyo make it home, safe and sound.