Agri Department affirms support for Bajo de Masinloc fisherfolk

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The Department of Agriculture (DA) affirmed support to the fishermen in Zambales affected by the illegal confiscation of their fishing equipment by Chinese authorities in May of this year.

In a statement, the DA, through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said that the department is committed to sustain its continuing support to the Zambales fisherfolk of Zambales with a P8.664 million livelihood and technical assistance package for the year 2020.

The package was committed by the DA as it noted the importance of fishing as the main source of livelihood of fishermen in the affected coastal communities.

The DA also encouraged the fishermen cooperatives and associations to head to BFAR to seek accreditation for them to participate in the implementation of fishery enterprise development projects.

“With our collective action, we will be able to achieve food resiliency, fishery sustainability and income security,” the statement said.

The fishermen lost their fish aggregating devices (FADs) or “Payao” within the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales last May 2020 when members of the Chinese Coast Guard confiscated them.

On August 20, 2020, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) formally lodged a diplomatic protest against China over the illegal confiscation by the Chinese Coast Guard of the fishermen’s FADS.

Bajo de Masinloc , also known as Scarborough Shoal, and its surrounding waters are highly productive traditional fishing grounds of fishermen from Zambales and Pangasinan.

The volume of production in the area contributes significantly to the availability of food fish and over-all food security of Regions I and III, where there are 32,839 registered fisherfolk. A “payao” is a fish aggregating device that consists of a floating raft anchored by a weighted line with suspended materials such as palm fronds to attract pelagic and schooling species common in deep waters.

In northwestern Luzon, including areas in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc, fishermen use ring nets and payaos in strategic areas to attract tuna and other fish species to greatly reduce time spent in searching for commercial quantities of fish.

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