Former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio (INQUIRER.net file photos)
MANILA, Philippines — The tandem of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is looking into using Badjaos as sea patrollers to protect the country’s marine environment and prevent illegal fishing.
The proposal, however, was met with sharp criticism from a militant fishermen’s group.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Marcos-Sara tandem said the skills of coastal tribes, which inhabits Tawi Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, and some coastal towns of Zamboanga City, could be helpful as force multipliers to the government’s Bantay Dagat program.
“Being expert fishermen, deep-sea divers, and navigators, Badjaos possess the skills to become effective ‘Bantay Dagat’ deputies,” the tandem said in a statement. “Their heritage and culture have always been tied to the sea, and they can be an invaluable ally in our environmental protection efforts.”
The Bantay Dagat program is currently being implemented by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture.
The Badjaos, having been victims of conflict and harassment, have been displaced, many of them wounding up in urban areas like Metro Manila.
The tandem also called for local governments of the said regions to end what they call an “unwritten policy of exclusion” against the group.
“They are Filipinos and deserve the opportunities available to everyone. They must be treated with respect and dignity and not herded like cattle every time they are apprehended,” they added.
A group of progressive fishermen on Wednesday opposed the proposal of the tandem, calling it “very dangerous” and unnecessary.
“Tapping Badjaos as sea patrols is a very dangerous measure as this tribe group will never be capable of enforcing laws against illegal and destructive fishing vessels that are backed by big-fishing interests, and even despotic politicians,” Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a statement sent to INQUIRER.net.
“Badjaos don’t need a law enforcement position because there are already the coast guard and maritime police to enforce the existing fishing laws against large-scale destructive and illegal fishing,” Pamalakaya added.
Pamalakaya also said that the measure would not “address the roots” and “vulnerability” of Badjaos as a national minority.
“What Badjaos need is a recognition of their self-determination and rights in fishing communities. Privatization and conversion of coastal communities that displace fisherfolks and coastal settlers should stop,” the group added.
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