PH bets on fisherfolk, but halts policy protecting town waters from big fishers

PALAWAN, Philippines – As the northeast monsoon wind blew one morning in March, Jojo Quirino and two other fishermen bravely paddled a small outrigger boat tossed by waves off the coast of Manamoc, a remote island barangay of Cuyo town in the northeastern part of Palawan.

Once they reached a fishing ground 30 minutes away from the coast, the three started pulling in the net they cast the night before. They continued the backbreaking work until the net was finally hauled back to their boat, but upon checking it, the 39-year-old Quirino sighed in dismay.

“It’s really saddening because we left it here the whole night, but it only caught three kilos of danggit (rabbitfish),” he said, his shoulders slumped as they split the catch among themselves. Each of them gets just enough to feed their families for a day.

During the amihan period, the sea is rough, and so is life for Manamoc fisherfolk like Quirino, a father of five.

“If you have children who depend on you, catch as small as this is not enough because it can’t cover your other daily needs,” he told Rappler.

The fishermen have been looking forward to better sailing conditions in April so they can earn well, but that also means competing for good catch with commercial fishing vessels (CFVs) that illegally encroach on Cuyo’s municipal waters, known for economically important migratory and reef fish species.

This pervasive problem in the Philippines’ municipal waters has been exacerbated by the national government’s weak and slow implementation of the vessel monitoring system (VMS). Environmental groups believe this could have addressed the issue that disproportionately impacts artisanal fishers and, ultimately, imperils the country’s food security.


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