Group slams tuna firms for 315 missing fishermen

THE militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday blamed tuna companies based in General Santos City for the missing 315 fishermen due to onslaught of typhoon Pablo which hit this city and other neighboring provinces in Mindanao.

“These tuna firms were advised to temporarily shelve their operations because of the incoming perfect storm. But they did not heed to the advisory and instead they pursued their perpetual thirst for precious tuna and gambled the lives of fish workers,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson lamented.

The Philippine Coast Guard in General Santos City confirmed that more than 300 fishemen working for six major tuna companies in this city are still missing based on the report submitted by Rugela Fishing, RAFI Incorporated, RLG Fishing, DSG Fishing, LPS Fishing and Salazar Fishing.

The 6 tuna companies acknowledged that 46 tuna fishing boats and its crew members were still unaccounted as of Saturday last week.

The tuna firms submitted documents containing the identification of fish workers and ship crew, including other details such as number of fisherworkers on board of these tuna fishing boats at the time typhoon Pablo pounded General Santos City and other provinces in Mindanao.

Hicap said he was puzzled why the PCG stationed in General Santos still allowed tuna fishing boats to sail and fish for tuna. Despite the very strong weather forecast about typhoon Pablo.

“The national government, the local government and the owners of tuna fishing fleets should refrain from blaming the tuna fish workers. Definitely it is not the fault of tuna fish workers. These small people and modern-day slaves in tuna factories are the victims here. It is the fault of few moneyed people who regularly make huge money from extracting tuna off Mindanao waters,” the Pamalakaya official added.

Pamalakaya said aside from determining the accountability of 6 tuna fishing companies, the government should also investigate the possible criminal neglect of PCG officials who gave the go-signal for owners of tuna fishing vessels.
Meanwhile, Pamalakaya urged the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to mobilize its newly acquired fishing boats to help in locating the missing fishermen in General Santos City.

The group said BFAR has six fishing boats currently used to monitor commercial fishing fleets that will violate the current fish ban in the Visayan Sea.

Pamalakaya likewise asked its members in General Santos City, Misamis Oriental and other parts of Mindanao to help in rescue operations.

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