With the expected increase in the price of fuel and other petroleum products, small fishermen, considered among the poorest of the poor in the Philippines, may be left with no choice but to apply for a loan from so-called loan sharks.
According to the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), this early, fishermen in Navotas are already feeling the brunt of the oil-price hike and are complaining of the additional burden on the domino effect to the price of basic commodities.
Pamalakaya said municipal fishermen need the government’s help and support in the form of production subsidy, whether in cash or in kind, to cope with the expected increase in cost of production.
The group fears that the impact of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act will be unbearable, especially to small fishermen, who regularly consume gasoline or diesel for their fishing operations.
Based on the group’s initial investigation, the price of gasoline as of January 4 has surged to P49.20 per liter, from P43 per liter even before the new tax reform has been implemented.
This means small fishermen who regularly consume 12 liters of gasoline per fishing trip have to prepare at least P600, from P516, for the gasoline alone.
Pamalakaya said the cost of petroleum products eats up almost 80 percent of their production trip.
Other production costs include food needs of the boat owner and its companion, which costs P150, and the tricycle fare to buy gasoline in the market that costs P40.
With the oil-price increase, a total of P790, from P706, is needed to cover the production cost per fishing trip of six to eight hours.
In a news statement, Fernando Hicap, national chairman of Pamalakaya, lamented that the output of every fishing trip does not usually guarantee a profit. Sometimes, the group said, the amount spent during fishing trips barely breaks even because of the dwindling fish catch.
The average fish catch of municipal fishermen ranges from 2 to 5 kilos.
“Because they can’t even earn the cost of production, fishermen have to borrow money with excessive interest rates to cover the production costs of their next fishing operation, making them buried in debt,” he said.
“The fishermen are already battered by numerous issues besetting the fishing sector; namely, the fish-catch depletion due to the corporate plunder of marine resources, the anti-fisherfolk law that allows commercial fishing fleets to exploit municipal waters, and the government’s lack of support to our sector. Now, the skyrocketing prices of oil products under the new tax-reform law will exacerbate the miserable condition of the country’s poorest of the poor,” Hicap said.
“Because of TRAIN’s oil-price hike, fishermen have to cut their fishing trip from the regular six to eight hours to four to six hours. They also have to reduce their fishing days from the average of four to five days a week to three days a week. This also means a diminution of their already small income and days of starvation,” he added.
“We want to remind President Duterte that the small-scale fishers do not have a regular income, so the decrease of income tax is actually worthless to us, but whether we like it or not, we would be bearing the brunt of unbridled increase of basic commodities and oil products,” Hicap said.
The group calls for the scrapping of TRAIN, which, it said, is a burden not only to the fishing sector, but to all the hardworking Filipino people.
“We don’t need a new tax-reform law that will only worsen the condition of the poor, working Filipino people, but affordable basic commodities and social services that will make us more productive citizens,” he said.