Int’l groups decry the destruction of mussel farms in Cavite, Philippines

Joint press release of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty and Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organizations in the Philippines, PAMALAKAYA)

Manila, Philippines – A day before the deadline set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to dismantle mussel farms and other fisheries structures on Manila Bay in towns of Cavite province, south of Manila, fisherfolk activists led by Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) protested in front of its central office in Quezon City. They denounced the order as “unjust and anti-fisherfolk,” and that it will affect the livelihood of around 15,000 fisherfolk in the province. They were joined by activists from the People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty (PCFS), an international movement of rural peoples organizations that led support actions in other countries and continents.

The Cavite Task Force Group for Manila Bay, an agency of the government under the DENR, has installed signages in municipalities of Noveleta, Kawit, and cities of Cavite and Bacoor of the said province, notifying the public regarding the demolition of “illegal” fishing structures in Manila Bay. The said demolition starts tomorrow and will affect mussel and oyster farms.

“Manila Bay rehabilitation is supposed to restore its marine resources for the benefit of small fisherfolk. But the DENR’s thrust says otherwise. The Supreme Court mandamus clearly ordered the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to coordinate with local government units in developing the fisheries resources.  The Duterte regime is weaponizing the order for its neoliberal agenda to displace fisherfolk communities and privatize bay areas for the interest of giant profits of foreign monopoly,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said during the protest.

Pamalakaya asserted that the dismantling of fishing structures is the precursor to the massive reclamation plan in Cavite, especially in Bacoor City that has a 420-hectare proposed reclamation project. They said Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla, wife of an incumbent senator Ramon Revilla, is pushing the reclamation. The provincial government is also promoting the 1,331-hectare 5-island reclamation project, affecting many towns.

For its part, PCFS said that this is a classic case of destruction of food systems brought about by the Philippine government’s promotion of neoliberal agenda, on top of a chronic social and political system dominated by the ruling class trampling on the socio-economic rights of marginalized sectors.

“The Duterte bureaucrat capitalism intends to replace the community food systems with profit-oriented projects such as reclaimed real estate, at the cost of violating the right to work, food, shelter, and adequate standard of living of the fisherfolk sector. This is the real picture amid blabber by imperialist peddlers for the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UN FSS), happening on September 23” said Julie Smit, executive committee member of the PCFS.

The coalition’s members and networks across the globe expressed their support with “selfie protests” on social media by its leaders from Luxembourg, Pakistan, Cambodia, Hongkong, and Indonesia. They held signs with the messages “Reclaim Our Seas and Fishing Rights,” “Stop Destruction of Mussel Farms in Cavite,” and “Oppose Neoliberal Privatization of Bay Areas.” PCFS vowed more protests with fisherfolk communities will take place the week before the Global People’s Summit on Food Systems, a counter-action against the UN FSS, on September 21 to 23.

“The real food systems summit should be by the peoples of the world and not by the ruling classes of countries. We would be exposing this case of Cavite at the Global People’s Summit on Food Systems, as an exhibit of the destruction of food systems under the framework of neoliberalism,” bared Smit.

PCFS expressed support to Pamalakaya’s initial plan of filing legal actions on government officials, who obviously violated “due process” and disregarded supposed public hearings with affected stakeholders.

“Anti-people bureaucrat capitalists should be held answerable for their actions of violating the basic rights of marginalized sectors.  They are proponents of a moribund system that leads to unsustainability and destruction of food systems. We support Pamalakaya and the fisherfolk of Cavite on this fight,” Smit said. ###

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