by AMIANAN SALAKNIBAN – DEFEND THE NORTH
A regional environmental group assailed the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) “blue economy” agenda, calling it a “sugar-coated bullet” and a “blueprint for wholesale plunder of marine resources.” The Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) joined the growing number of groups expressing their criticism on the strategy promoted by APEC leaders in the recent concluded ministerial meeting in Iloilo City.
Blue economy is a development scheme that focuses on the “sustainable development and utilization marine resources and ecosystem” in the Asia Pacific Region. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ramon Paje is supporting and endorsing the plan and agreements reached during the Iloilo City meeting in the belief that it “will lead to resilient oceans and coastal resources and ecosystems, coastal communities and sustainable aquaculture.”
But Defend Ilocos thinks otherwise. The group said that APEC’s free-trade philosophy that pushed trade liberalization and service and resource privatization will aggravate the marginalization of fisherfolks and communities dependent to fisheries and related activities for their livelihood. They cited the impact of Republic Act 8435 otherwise known as the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 and Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 that paved the way for the liberalization and privatization of the agriculture and fishery sector in the country.
“The passage of AFMA and the Fishery Code, both hailed as legislation anchored on “global competitiveness” and “sustainable development” strategies only aggravated the already dismal state of fisherfolks and fishing communities by allowing big and foreign fishing vessels and companies access and control over large expanse of fishing grounds like what the fisherfolks in Lingayen Gulf are experiencing now,” states the group.
Small fisherfolks depending on the rich fishing ground in the province of Pangasinan and La Union have been complaining against the proliferation of big trawls and restrictive policies that limit their access to the area.
“Fifteen years of implementation of the law that was supposed to bring about development and yet the fisheries sector remain the poorest of the poor – failure is an understatement for this result,” Defend Ilocos adds.
The environmental network also attributes the proliferation of offshore mining applcations to the policy regimes that APEC leaders together with multilateral funding institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are pushing.
“Developed countries which dominate APEC like the United States are the ones who strongly push for the liberalization of the mining industry. These are the same countries where leading mining companies are based – the first ones to explore mineral extraction in the vast marine environment of the Philippines,” notes the group.
Defend Ilocos said that their members and allied organizations will join protest actions coinciding the APEC ministerial meetings in Manila on November to register strong opposition against capitalist-led and dictated policies.
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SHERWIN DE VERA
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