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WV small crab fishers form alliance

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• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

In an unprecedented effort to protect their rights and advance their collective welfare, small crab fishers in Western Visayas have recently formed a regional alliance with an initial core based in the three provinces of the region.

The Panay-Negros-Guimaras Crab Fishers Alliance (PANEG-CA) will hold its founding Regional Congress on December 18 and 19 at the Negros Residences Hotel, Bacolod City.

A statement issued by the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement – Negros Occidental chapter expects 200 small fisher leaders and delegates from more than 100 people’s organizations spread throughout 18 coastal towns and cities in Panay, Negros and Guimaras to participate in the event.

More than 20 guests including national and local government officials, civil society leaders, and private sector/crab industry representatives will attend the affair.

Gerry Bedoya, acting PANEG-CA chair and leader of the Manapla Federation of Small Fishers Associations (MAFSFA), said the founding congress and launch is a big victory for the small fishers and fish workers in the region as it will give them a greater voice and influence in fisheries governance.

“The congress is an opportunity and venue to present to the government the major issues and concerns affecting the crabbers and small fishers like continuing illegal fishing, threats of mining in coastal areas, climate changes, lack of fishers participation in local governance, and worsening economic conditions,” Bedoya said.

Invited to give inspirational messages are Senator Risa Hontiveros, Negros Occidental Provincial Governor Jose Eugenio Lacson, Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer, 2nd District Rep. and Chair of the House Committee on Aquaculture Alfredo Marañon III, 3rd District Rep. and Chair of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development Francisco Benitez, and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR-VI) Regional Director Remia Aparri. Invited to give the welcome remarks is Bacolod City Mayor Albee Benitez, who is also the concurrent chair of the Western Visayas Regional Development (RDC).

Also expected to join  to give their respective solidarity messages are the Local Chief Executives (LCEs) from the major crab production areas of the region  including Ajuy and Concepcion in North Iloilo and EB Magalona and Manapla in North Negros and the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) Head Dr. Dina Genzola.

National and local civil society leaders, including those from the NGOs for Fisheries Reform (NFR) Executive Director Mayette Rodriguez,  PRRM National President Edicio Dela Torre, PAGHIMUD-OS Chair Rafael Coscoluella, and leaders from  Western Visayas Network of Social Development NGOs (WEVNET), and the Negros Caucus of NGOs as well as private sector and crab industry representatives will also give their messages.

Also invited to give his solidarity remarks is Deputy Chief of Party Noel Barut of the Gerry Roxas Foundation (GRF)’s Investing in Sustainable Partnerships for Inclusive Growth and Regenerative Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Project which is providing assistance to the event. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is funding INSPIRE through the GRF.

Edwin Balajadia, Area Manager of PRRM-Negros/Iloilo, which is the assisting NGO for PANEG-CA, said aside from the speeches from government and civil society, among the highlights of the first day are presentations by PRRM National President Ed Dela Torre on the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation (MANA) and that of BFAR and OPA of their respective programs for small fishers and coastal communities.

The second day will focus on the internal organizational matters, plans and elections of the PANEG-CA leadership council and officers. It will also come up with its fisheries advocacy agenda, standpoints and resolutions on vital BSC and fisheries issues.*

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