Fishing communities bear brunt of lockdown | Inquirer Business
A sinking feeling has enveloped fishing communities across the country as the uncertainty of an extended lockdown continues to bite.

Fishing communities bear brunt of lockdown

By: - Reporter / @kocampoINQ
/ 05:16 AM April 15, 2020

A sinking feeling has enveloped fishing communities across the country as the uncertainty of an extended lockdown continues to bite.

As the government scrambles to control the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), thousands of Filipinos whose lives depended on the sea have seen prices of seafood slashed by more than half because of restrictions on the movement of goods and people.

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Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Ed Gongona said much of the fish being brought in were piled up in cold storages while movement of fish exports are hampered by port congestion.

Despite the ongoing drop in sales, however, the country’s fishermen have no choice but to continue sailing.

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“Since the quarantine, orders from processing companies have slowed down and prices have gone down too. But we cannot stop fishing. This is the only livelihood we know,” Imuk Montebon, a 62-year-old fisherman based in Gigantes Island, said.

Montebon used to sell a kilo of squid for P340. The price has now plummeted to P250. A 40-kilo tub of fish used to be sold for P6,000, but this has also significantly gone down to P1,000 since the lockdown.

“We can make do with the limited fishing schedule, but it’s hard to deal with the prices. People here have nothing to do but sacrifice if they want to buy rice,” he added.

Since the Philippines reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19, it has implemented a string of measures to curb the spread of the disease, including travel restrictions and curfew schedules.

Operations related to food were exempted from these restrictions, but demand has gone stale with the temporary closures of restaurants and hotels, and with food processing companies operating with only a skeleton force.

Small-scale fishing was also limited to municipal waters, making local fisherfolk compete with one another for their catch.

“These fishermen in Cavite go as far as Bataan to fish, but they cannot do that anymore with the current regulations. They cannot even go to Manila Bay. The government is saying that they are exempted from these restrictions, but these people don’t have cars to move around. They don’t have any mode of transportation,” Fernando Hicap, National chair of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya, said.

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“These are fishing communities. The people here cannot plant. Most of them have been really reliant on relief because there is not much to go around,” he added.

Even with fish catch already being sold at a loss, prices in public markets have not been reflective of the fisherfolk’s plight. In Palawan, a kilo of roundscad (galunggong) are being sold to traders between P30 and P50 a kilo. In public markets in Metro Manila, however, the same variant is being sold for P130 a kilo.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the agency was doing its best to prop up the production of the entire sector, including crops, livestock, poultry and fisheries, but fisherfolk are demanding relief.

Under the Department of Agriculture’s P31-billion ‘Plant, Plant, Plant’ program, only P1 billion was directly committed to the fisheries industry. Half of that would be used for urban aquaponics, while the other half would be used to improve aquaculture operations as well as capture fisheries in inland waters.

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TAGS: coronavirus disease (COVID-19), fishing communities, lockdown
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