Paaling fishermen victims in Negros Oriental to get DOLE assistance

A July 26, 2011 press release by the Department of Labor and Employment

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz announced yesterday that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will provide a package of livelihood assistance valued at P914,000 to the 38 fishermen workers who have filed complaints against Master Fisherman Andrew Labao/Pesca Maharlika Marine Resources, Inc. to ensure they will not engage in paaling, a deep-sea compressor fishing activity similar to muro-ami, where fishermen, using crude apparatus usually of junk iron and steel material, pound coral reefs to scare and drive fish into a net laid out on the ocean floor.

Baldoz’s announcement came after she directed DOLE-Regional Office No. 7 Director Exequiel Sarcauga to alleviate the plight of the 250 workers who have been cheated out of their salaries and benefits by Master Fisherman Andrew Labao/Pesca Maharlika Marine Resources, Inc. during a ten-month fishing voyage near the international waters of Palawan.

“Our DOLE-Regional Office in Cebu has proposed the provision of a package of assistance initially for 38 of the 250 workers who have filed complaints with the DOLE’s Negros Oriental Field Office in Dumaguete City. I instructed the regional office to fast track the finalization of the proposal for the package of assistance so we can release the money,” Baldoz said.

The labor and employment chief said the package of assistance will be funded by Integrated Services Livelihood Assistance (ISLA), a project for marginal fisher folk in fishing communities, under the DOLE’s Integrated Livelihood Assistance Program (DILP).

With the provision of motorized boats to the 38 marginal fishermen, Baldoz said the potential of increasing the fish catch of the fishermen will be realized, thereby enabling them to improve their incomes.

“An added-value to the project is also empowering the fishermen to help in monitoring activities occurring in their municipal waters which will boost their morale to act more responsibly in their own best interest to manage coastal and fishery resources in sustainable ways,” Baldoz said.

Specifically, the project aims to provide the marginal fishermen with tools to augment their income; increase their level of awareness and concern for the environment, particularly on coastal and fishery resources; strengthen partnership and collaboration in the management of the coastal and fishery resources; and make them stewards of their own resources.

A report of Sarcauga showed that the 38 fishermen workers are residents of Ayungon, a fourth-class municipality in Negros Oriental where the people’s chief occupations are farming and fishing.

The assistance would consist of capability building and training for the 38 workers and, afterwards, the provision of individual motorized boats and fishing gears for each of the fishermen workers.

“We are eyeing the Visayan Forum, a non-government organization engaged in anti-human trafficking activities, to partner with us in this livelihood assistance project,” said Sarcauga in his report to the Labor and Employment Secretary.

Earlier, Baldoz warned workers not to be lured into paaling fishing, the traditional method of fishing that has replaced muro-ami, saying paaling is a very risky and life-threatening occupation.

The warning came after the conduct Sunday of a DOLE-facilitated dialogue of the Provincial Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (PIACAT) of Negros Oriental in Dumaguete City, where members of the PIACAT received testimonies and reports of the 38 fishermen-victims of Pesca Maharlika Marine Resources, Inc., the Navotas, Malabon-based fishing company now under fire for victimizing 250 fishermen-workers and for alleged violations of numerous laws.