Philippines’ 600K fishworkers not covered by minimum wage law

Published by rudy Date posted on April 8, 2011

MANILA, Philippines-About 600,000 fish workers in the Philippines who work in commercial fishing vessels and aquaculture farms are not covered by Manila’s minimum wage. Worse, majority of them get very low wages for an average of 20 hours of work a day.

In a special report filed by activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), a copy of such report was furnished to aal said previous administrations and even the incumbnet presidency of Benigno Simeon Aquino III have failed to arrest what the group called modern-day slavery to the highest order.

The situation led Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap to put pressure on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to have the 600, 000 fish workers in commercial fishing and aquaculture sectors covered by the existing minimum wage law, saying workers in both sub-sectors of the fishing industry only receive between P 100 to P 250 per day in total compensation for more than 8 hours work a day.

The 51-year old activist fisherfolk leader lamented that workers in commercial fishing vessels and aquaculture farms are not covered by the existing minimum wage law and such slave-holding like practice has been tolerated by the previous administrations, including the incumbent presidency of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

“This modern-day slavery continues under the anti-worker and anti-fisher people regime of President Aquino. We challenge DOLE to investigate this perennial exploitation by foreign and domestic capital and declare that poor fish workers should be covered by the existing minimum wage law and are entitled to social benefits,” Hicap stressed.

Support to legislated pay hike

The Pamalakaya leader said aside from declaring some 600,000 fish workers as minimum wage earners, the DOLE should also support the P 125 across the board pay hike that would cover all regular and contractual workers in non-agriculture and agriculture sectors which include fish workers.

In a study conducted by Pamalakaya in 2004 and 2005 and in 2009, the group found out that fish workers in trawl fishing receive a daily pay hike of P100 to P150 for 20 hours work, while the fishworker captain and 2nd fish worker captain receive P150 to P180 daily for 20 hours’work.

It said the fishlords in commercial and aquaculture sectors are dictating the take home pay of fishworkers. The wage boards and its’ so-called political authority as far as wage determination is concerned is conniving with big fishing operators to impose this low wage policy in the fisheries sector.

Pamalakaya also said in aquaculture fishponds, seasonal workers employed in aqua farms measuring 125 hectares to 200 hectares are paid P 200 per day, while those working in fishponds measuring 12 hectares and below are paid P120 per day.

The group insisted the 600,000 fish workers in commercial fishing and aquaculture sectors were part of the 28.37 million workers out of the 33.7 million labor force who did not benefit from previous wage increases during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and administrations before her.

Profits from Malampaya

Earlier, Pamalakaya suggested that the Aquino government to make use of the P 100- billion in total profits the government had earned from the perations of Malampaya since 2002 to meet the demand of poor fisherfolk for oil production subsidy.

“If Mr. Aquino really wants to address multi-faceted problems arising from unbridled hikes in the prices of petroleum products, all he has to do is to exercise political will. The political will to control oil price hikes, the will the stop overpricing and price manipulation of oil cartel, the will to scrap the 12 percent E-VAT on oil, the will to scrap the oil deregulation law and the will to nationalize the oil industry, nothing more, nothing less,” Pamalakaya asserted.

On the same day Aquino announced its plan to include fisherfolk in the current oil subsidy program, Pamalakaya led small fisherfolk from Laguna Lake in filing a petition at the Department of Agriculture (DA) demanding the government to allot at least P 32 billion oil production subsidy per year to caution the impact of oil price increases.

In their petition Pamalakaya dared agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to mandate Malacanang to set up a yearly P 32-B oil production subsidy fund for small fisherfolk to cushion the impact of hikes in the prices of petroleum products. Under the oil production subsidy program, fisherfolk operating a small boat will get a monthly oil production subsidy of P 4,500 per month and while those using paddle for fishing would receive a monthly aid of P 2,500 to mitigate the impact of global financial crisis and the spikes in oil prices.

The beneficiaries of Pamalakaya’s proposed oil subsidy would be the 313,000 small boat fishing owners and the 637,000 paddle dependent and boatless fishermen all over the country.

According to Pamalakaya, fuel cost alone eats up 80 percent of the production cost per fishing trip. A fisherman regularly consumes 10 liters of either gasoline or diesel per fishing trip.

Pamalakaya said the main purpose of the P 32-billion production subsidy is to keep the wheel of production in the fisheries sector moving, because it is currently battered by high prices of oil products and skyrocketing prices of fishing gears and equipments.

According to the group, the P 4,500 monthly subsidy constitutes about 50 percent of the monthly expenses spent by fishermen owning a small fishing boat in their daily fish capture. Pamalakaya said the proposed measure will only cost the government a monthly production subsidy of P 1.4 billion per month or P 16 billion per year.

Pamalakaya’s proposal for production subsidy for 637,000 non-motorized fishing boats operators and boatless fisherfolk across the country will cost the national government some of P1.3 billion per month or roughly P 15.67 billion per year. All in all, the total subsidy for a little over small fishermen will cost the government some P 32 billion in total production subsidies annually.

Aside from removing the 12 percent EVAT on oil, Pamalakaya said Malacanang should immediately deduct the P 7.50 per liter cost in the prices of petroleum products representing overpriced portion of the fuel cost per liter and the scrapping of the Oil Deregulation Law to immediately effect price control on petroleum products. –Crimson Red Pulatienez, Gerry Albert Corpuz and Franklin Roosevelt Dimaguiba,

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