Press Release
March 17, 2010


GENERAL SANTOS CITY - Senator Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr. expressed concern on the 150,000 fish workers, who will be displaced from jobs as Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) implemented a two-year seine tuna fishing ban on high seas.

The WCPFC started the fishing ban on portions of Western and Central Pacific Ocean on January this year as part of conservation and management measures to replenish the yellow fin and big-eye tuna, which are now dwindling because of over-fishing.

"Long before the implementation of the ban, our small fishermen are already displaced as Philippine waters have been overfished by big fishing companies and illegal operators. Our local and small fishermen were forced to operate outside the domestic waters illegally," the senator revealed.

On the other hand, the senator lambasted the governing agencies that oversee the Philippine waters, which are now empty of tuna because of over-fishing.

The National Fisheries Research Development Institute (NFRDI) said there was indiscriminate fishing in the open-accessed Philippine waters because of the mismanagement of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the local government units responsible for overseeing the fishing operations.

"While the WCPFC ban is laudable, we should have adopted the same measures a long time ago to protect our fisher folks," he said, adding that "even if there is a ban in international waters, our domestic waters will sustain our industry."

He said the ban will affect Mindanao's economy as most of General Santos City 's annual tuna catch came from international waters.

In a dialogue with the members of the South Cotabato Purse-Seiners Association (SOCOPA), Bong Revilla assured the fish workers that they will be given priority for loan programs.

He added that under Republic Act 10000 or Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act, which he authored, all banking institutions shall set aside 25 percent of their loanable fund as credit allocation to small farmers and small and medium scale enterprises.

The law was signed into law, which amended Presidential Decree 717 or the Agri-Agra Law, last February.

"The enactment of the law is timely because our fishermen and farmers are suffering setback after setback because of drought and fish kill brought about by El Nino phenomenon. Now, our fisher folks are facing another dilemma with the WCPFC's decision to ban tuna fishing," the senator said.

He explained that the newly-amended law promotes rural development by enhancing access of the rural agricultural sector to financial services and programs that increase market efficiency and promote modernization in the rural agricultural and aqua-culture sectors.

General Santos is earning $380 million from export figures of 400 metric tons a year. It gave steady livelihood to city residents and in other parts of Mindanao.

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