Fishermen push for freer Scarborough access, zero-hunger bill

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 06 2017 07:35 PM

A fisherman looks at fishing boats that returned from disputed Scarborough Shoal, as they are docked at the coastal village of Cato in Infanta, Pangasinan. Erik De Castro, Reuters/File

MANILA- Fisherfolk from Masinloc, Zambales who continue to fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal urged the government to pass the anti-hunger bill currently pending in both houses of Congress. 

Federasyon ng mga Asosasyon ng mga Mangingisda sa Zambales President Leonard Cuaresma told human rights advocates attending the "Pagkain, Sapat Dapat" forum at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday that majority of families in Masinloc still experience hunger.

“Masaya na kaming manginigsda noon ngunit hindi tulad ng dati, hindi pa rin kami malayang maka-labas-masok sa nasabing lugar,” Cuaresma said.

Cuaresma claims, around 80 percent of families in Masinloc are affected by the dominance of Chinese fishermen in Scarborough Shoal.

He said a visit to the public market in their town would prove that fish has been scarce since the Chinese came back to Scarborough Shoal.

“Ito ay malinaw na paglabag sa ating karapatang-pantao dahil hindi tayo malayang makakapangisada sa nasabing lugar,” Cuaresma said.

Cuarasema noted, among others, that they need bigger fishing boats in order to compete against fishermen not only from China, but also from Vietnam and Taiwan.

Groups such as the FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN), National Food Coalition, and the CHR reiterated in the forum that food is a basic right of all Filipinos.

FIAN President Aurea Teves said the aim of the zero-hunger bill is to ensure that there is adequate food for all, fishermen included, by implementing programs to address hunger in the country.

“If the bill is passed, it will be the priority of the government to ensure that all their rights are protected,” Teves said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, however, assured that the anti-hunger bill involves the creation of a commission that would ensure there is adequate food for all. 

“Nakasaad din na gagawa ng tanggapan para imbestigahan ang paglabag sa karapatan sa pagkain,” Hontiveros said.

The CHR emphasized that the right to adequate food is already in local laws such as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law and international statutes, such as the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

But CHR Commissioner Karen Dumpit said the passage of a law to fight hunger is necessary to “get the right mix.”

“Hunger is inconsistent with human dignity and human rights,” Dumpit said.

She said the target is to reduce hunger by 25 percent in five years, or “make it happen sooner than we think.”