Ang Bayan Ngayon » US, AFP ban tens of thousands of fisherfolk from fishing due to Balikatan

May 7, 2024

Tens of thousands of fisherfolk are banned from sailing and deprived of livelihood due to the Balikatan war games the US is conducting in the country. They are prohibited from earning a living during the entire period of the activity (April 22-May 10).

The US and AFP imposed a “no sail policy” in Zambales, Ilocos Norte and Palawan to make way for live-fire exercises on the coasts using missile launchers such as HIMARS. On May 3, the US conducted a missile launch in San Antonio, Zambales. From May 6 to May 10, live-fire exercises and a ship sinking will be conducted in Ilocos Norte.

In Ilocos Norte, this ban covers the towns of Burgos, Pagudpud, Bangui, Pasuquin, Bacarra, Paoay, Currimao, Badoc, and Laoag City.

More than 600 American and Filipino soldiers arrived in Laoag on May 5. War games will be held in the province where soldiers will simulate an attack of invaders from the sea. The Americans will also fire their HIMARS from the sand dunes on the coast of La Paz.

Even before the policy was issued, the fisherfolk’s group Pamalakaya already raised its objections. Its chairman Fernando Hicap last April said we must be vigilant for the US’s attempts to declare a sailing ban for war games that have no relevance for the Filipino people.

In last year’s Balikatan, a similar policy was declared banning the sailing of fisherfolk not only in Ilocos Norte but also in neighboring towns in Ilocos Sur despite not being covered by the war games.

That year, the local government in Ilocos Norte issued a resolution to evict fisherfolk catching fish around Burgos, Pagudpud, Bangui, Pasuquin, Bacarra, Paoay, Currimao, Badoc and Laoag also because of Balikatan. About 13,800 registered fisherfolk were affected by this policy last year.

“Disrupting the livelihoods of Filipino fisherfolk for the provocative and militaristic actions of the US in our waters is unacceptable,” according to Hicap.

The fisherfolk in Zambales also complained about the no-sail policy which they say brings a serious hardship to their livelihood. They said they will lose around ₱1,500 to ₱2,000 due to the ban on fishing in the municipal waters of the province.

Even the boat tour guides are affected because no tourists would certainly hire them while the Americans fire cannons and missiles into the sea. They complain that it is even tourist season.

In Laoag, the city mayor downplayed the impact of HIMARS firing in Barangay La Paz on the livelihood and lifestyle of his constituents and only said that they have nothing to worry about.

In Rizal, Palawan, more than 100 residents of Barangay Kampong Ulay were evacuated on May 2 to make way for another US live-fire exercise in the area.

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