Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, August 14, 2009

Subic fisherfolk get P4-M environment fund

SUBIC BAY FREE PORT — Fisherfolk belonging to the Subic Bay Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council (SB-IFARMC), a group formed to promote the sustainable development of the bay of Subic, will receive P4 million to fund various activities meant to balance the industrial thrust of this maritime port.

The fund will be given by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) also as a form of assistance to jumpstart livelihood and marine resources conservation programs by local fishers, said SBMA head Armand Arreza in a statement.

Arreza said the amount will be sourced from the environmental guarantee fund, which was created as a condition under the environmental compliance certificate issued for two huge maritime projects here: the Subic port-modernization program and the Hanjin shipbuilding venture.

“Fisherfolk who have been dependent on Subic Bay’s bounty even before the creation of the Subic Bay Free Port will be the beneficiaries of this grant,” Arreza said.

“They may have been affected by restrictions imposed on Subic as the maritime sector boomed, but this grant proves that the SBMA also champions the interest of the fishing sector,” he added.

Arreza and SB-IFARMC chairman Laureano Artagame last week signed a memorandum of agreement governing the terms and conditions of the P4-milion grant.

Artagame, who profusely thanked the SBMA for providing the assistance, said the fund would be spent mostly on building artificial reefs, as well as scholarship and livelihood programs for the families of fisherfolk here.

Artagame added that membership of SB-IFARMC has grown over the years to more than 3,000 fisherfolk from the coastal communities of Zambales, Bataan and Olongapo City.

“With this fund, the SB-IFARMC will immediately implement project proposals from fishing communities. A lot of projects have lain dormant for the most part due to lack of funding,” he added.

According to the SB-IFARMC program, the SBMA will assist the group in the implementation of its projects, along with other government agencies like the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Arreza said the SBMA has not overlooked the importance of the local fishing industry even when the agency has recently shifted its focus to building up the maritime industry here.

The SBMA official recalled that the SB-IFARMC was also designed for the coordinated enforcement of fishery laws here, as well as the integrated and sustainable management of Subic Bay’s ecological values and marine resources.

“That is why the SB-IFARMC was formed in 2002 as a result of the SBMA ecology center’s initiative to empower the fishing sector, as mandated under Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fishing Code of 1998,” Arreza said.

He added that the SBMA organized the fisher folk around Subic as the first step toward empowerment.

“And what better way to manage Subic’s marine ecosystem than to involve those who consider the sea as their lifeblood?” he said. Written by Henry Empeño / Business Mirror Correspondent

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