Fishers group eyes Aquino’s P68-B audit free pork for subsidies

THE activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) is eying the audit free P 68-billion in total presidential pork barrel fund given by Congress to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III as oil and production subsidy to oil consumers like jeepney drivers and small fisherfolk to caution the impact of unstoppable spikes on these highly vulnerable sectors.

“We strongly suggest to Mr. Aquino and his gangland in Malacanang to earmark the president’s audit free P 68-billion pork barrel as oil and production subsidy to jeepney drivers and small fisherfolk. Since Aquino and company do not want to engage or offend the oil companies’ undying love for national exploitation and super profits, then the ruling syndicate in the Palace has no other choice but to let go that potential P 68-B worth crime of corruption,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

“Since Aquino is nothing but a first-rate puppet of oil companies, the people’s fight to end the across-the-nation  exploitation of oil cartel will be challenged and led by the Filipino people in the parliament of the streets, in the court of public opinion and even inside the reactionary institutions of the Aquino republic,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

Hicap suggested that the P 68-B audit free Aquino pork barrel to be divided into three sectors— P 28-B oil production subsidy for small fisherfolk, farmers and other agricultural producers using petroleum products, P 20 billion for jeepney drivers and another P 20-B for vulnerable and other poor sectors who need economic relief, alternative jobs and livelihood from the day-to-day impact of rising cost of food prices, oil prices and services.

Pamalakaya clarified the re-channeling of Aquino’s audit free pork barrel is just a tactical demand for immediate relief. Another set of tactical demands include price control on oil products, the removal of 12 percent expanded value added tax imposed on oil products, the investigation of oil cartel’s price manipulation and overpricing activities to be complemented with the urgent rollback of oil prices.

The militant group said the best solutions remains the immediate repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law and proceed with the nationalization of the oil industry.

Citing a study made by independent think tank group Ibon Foundation Inc., Pamalakaya said the P 68-B presidential pork barrel fund is 27 percent of the P 245-B highly questionable lump sum and unprogrammed funds and 15 percent of the P 1.645 trillion budget approved by Congress for next year.

“So there is P 177-B more of these unprogrammed and audit free funds. There’s a lot of money for corruption and questionable expenditures but no funds for the severe crisis laden people. This is extremely revolting,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said the unbridled spikes in the prices of oil products will require every fisherfolk some P 520 per fishing trip to be able to fish and such hike in the prices of petroleum products almost eats up 90 percent of the total production cost per fishing.

It said every Filipino fisherfolk uses at least 10 liters of regular gasoline or diesel per fishing trip and because of the situation he will be forced to stop fishing unless the government drastically reduces the prices of petroleum products by at least one third or one-half of the current price,” it said.

Pamalakaya said the if the average price per liter of petroleum products reaches the P 55 per liter this month, the fisherfolk will be compelled to reduced fishing hours from an average of 8-12  hours per fishing trip to four to eight hours or abandon fishing for the meantime due to high prices of oil products.

The group recalled that at the height of successive hikes in petroleum products in 2008, commercial fishing operators complained that 65 percent of their production cost went to fuel consumption.

Pamalakaya said commercial fishing vessels were forced to stop operations in 2008 due to oil price hikes. The group said in 2008, commercial fishing operators laid off 50,000 commercial fish workers in 14 tuna canneries in Western Mindanao due to hikes in petroleum products. Others resulted in downsized their operations due to increases in petroleum products and the 12 percent EVAT levied on oil products.

The weekly and unbearable increases in the prices of petroleum products have pushed small fishermen operating small motorized boats to reduce fishing hours from the normal 8 to 12 hours to 4 to 8 hours because of high prices of gasoline and other oil products. A significant number of fishermen cut fishing activities per week from the normal 6 days a week to three to four days a week due to perpetual increases in the prices of petroleum products.

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