14 August 2009

SBMA grants P4 million to Subic fisher folks

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has extended P4 million in assistance to a fisher folk group here to jumpstart their livelihood and marine resources conservation programs in accordance with the sustainable development of the bay of Subic.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the fund, which was created as a condition under the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued for the Subic Bay Port Development Project and the Hanjin shipbuilding venture here, will be spent on social and environmental activities that will balance the industrial thrust of this maritime port.

The Subic Bay Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council (SB-IFARMC), a non-government organization representing fishing associations and communities that rely mainly on Subic Bay’s marine resources, will receive the P4-million environmental guarantee fund.

“The fisher folks, who have been dependent on Subic Bay’s bounty even before the creation of the Subic Bay Freeport, will be the beneficiaries of this grant,” Arreza said.

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

On Tuesday, Arreza and SB-IFARMC chairman Laureano Artagame signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) governing the terms and conditions of the P4-milion grant.

Artagame, who profusely thanked the SBMA for providing the assistance, said the fund will be spent mostly on building artificial reefs, as well as scholarship and livelihood programs for fisher folks.

Under 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, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Arreza, meanwhile, assured the fishers group that while the Subic port modernization program and the Hanjin shipyard project are contributing much to the government’s revenue collection in Subic, the SBMA has not overlooked the importance of the fishing industry.

“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.

The SBMA chief explained that the formation of the SB-IFARMC was also aimed at coordinating the enforcement of fishery laws, and boosting the integrated and sustainable management of Subic Bay’s ecological values and marine resources.

“Organizing is the first step in social empowerment, and that is the first thing the SBMA did for the fisher folks here,” Arreza said. “And what better way to manage Subic’s marine ecosystem than to involve those who consider the sea as their lifeblood?”

In response, Artagame gave the assurance that the SB-IFAMC will immediately implement proposals from fishing communities, which have lain dormant for the most part due to lack of funding.

He added that the membership of SB-IFARMC has grown over the years to more than 3,000 fisher folks from the coastal communities of Zambales, Bataan and Olongapo City. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza (left) signs an agreement with SB-IFARMC chairman Laureano Artagame for the release of a P4-million environmental guarantee fund to benefit fisher folks in the Subic Bay area.