CHR Report: Access to marine resources crucial in ensuring the rights and welfare of artisanal fisherfolks

CHR Report: Access to marine resources crucial in ensuring the rights and welfare of artisanal fisherfolks

In aid of creating an enabling environment for the protection and realization of the rights of artisanal fisherfolks, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), through its Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR) Center, released the monitoring report on the human rights situation of the said sector.

The fisherfolk sector is facing many human rights issues and one of the significant concerns is the access to marine resources. This has implications to the livelihood of fisherfolks consequently affecting their various rights and standard of living, such as the right to health; indigenous peoples’ right to land, territories, and resources; and the right to a healthy environment among others.

The report has gathered that according to the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, only 8.28% of coastal cities or municipalities have passed ordinances indicating delineation of their municipal waters. Delineation and demarcation of municipal waters is vital in implementing the provisions of Republic Act No. 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code as amended by Republic Act No. 106541, particularly the preferential rights of the artisanal fisherfolks in municipal waters.

It was also observed that the continued intrusion of commercial fishing operations has posed a threat to the food security of municipal fisherfolk communities with the decreased amount and variety of fish they are able to eat. The livelihood and income of artisanal fisherfolks are also impacted as commercial fishing’s catch volume for one night’s operation is equivalent to an artisanal fisher’s catch volume for one month.

Coastal development projects also adversely impact the livelihood of fisherfolks and the marine environment. The effects include displacement of coastal communities, loss of fishing areas, loss of income, depletion of marine resources due to destruction of fish habitats, and loss of livelihood.

Regarding access to social services, the focus group discussion with fisherfolks revealed that most participants do not have access to the social security services of the government, including access to calamity funds and crop insurance. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the precarious situation of artisanal fisherfolks was exacerbated since many were not allowed to fish, especially the fishers in the National Capital Region.

The report cites and welcomes efforts of the government to promote the development of fishery resources, enforcement of fishery laws, and the conservation of marine resources by establishing marine protected areas. However, given the aforementioned issues that cause loss of livelihood and income, the report made several recommendations to improve the plight of artisanal fisherfolks.

Foremost, CHR highlights the need to address the gaps in the delineation of municipal waters, particularly the methodology of delineation for municipalities with offshore islands, and to strictly enforce the fishery laws that prohibit illegal and destructive fishing methods, and intrusion of commercial fishing vessels in municipal waters. The Commission encourages the implementation of the Vessel Monitoring System to address the continued intrusion of commercial fishing vessels in municipal waters.

CHR also urges the continued development of fishery programs that improve the technical skills, capacities, and technologies of artisanal fisherfolk and promote the sustainability of their livelihood. Effective management of fishery resources in municipalities is also essential in addressing food security issues.

It is notable that fisherfolks are now automatically included in the Philippine Health Insurance and the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. However, there is still a need for the social security institutions of the government to improve the access of artisanal fisherfolks to their programs.

CHR believes that investing and prioritizing the rights and welfare of fisherfolks will not only benefit the sector but will redound to all in terms of food security and a better economy in the long view. The Commission will continue to strengthen collaboration with relevant stakeholders in pursuit of the protection and fulfilment of the human rights of artisanal fisherfolks.

Read the full report here: