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VIET SEAFOOD

“Tuna Companies Ignored Warnings, Still 300 Men Missing” Philippines, December 17, 12

The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) lamented on Wednesday the lukewarm response of Malacanang on repeated calls for aggressive search of more than 300 fishermen who are still missing due to onslaught of typhoon Pablo that hit the tuna fishing areas in Far South Mindanao and West Philippine Sea.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chairperson and Anakpawis party list nominee Fernando Hicap said the minimal efforts carried out by the Aquino government to locate the whereabouts of more than 300 tuna fishermen on board on more than 60 fishing boats will not deliver decisive and defined results.

“Malacanang is not even bothered by the news of missing fishermen in the South as shown by the lukewarm and knee jerk responses of the Aquino government. Nobody from the Cabinet of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is giving weight to the tragedy that happened tuna fish workers who were caught at the center of the perfect storm few days ago. This is terrible, really terrible,” Hicap said.

The Pamalakaya leader and Anakpawis party list nominee said the so-so efforts displayed by national and local authorities as to search and rescue operations on 315 missing fishermen is tantamount to wholesale abandonment, unpardonable, grossly immoral and extremely unchristian.

“More than 300 tuna fishermen are missing and we see no sign of aggressive and serious effort on the part of Malacanang to recover and save the missing fishermen. Malacanang spokesperson and the personnel of government disaster agencies are just doing the traditional reporting and storytelling on missing fishermen and that is all that they can do-- report, report and end their stories with grandslam tales of uncertainties,” added Hicap.

Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list said the government has fishing boats and can commission private boats and ships for massive search and rescue operations. The groups said the Office of the President has more than P 20-billion in stand-by fund for this year, and it can finance a massive search and rescue operations on fishing grounds and nearby coastal areas affected by typhoon Pablo.

The militant groups said the Aquino government is avoiding a confrontation with operators of tuna companies based in General Santos City who dispatched their fishing vessels for tuna hunt despite early warning about the incoming super typhoon that will cross and hit Mindanao areas.

“These tuna firms were advised to temporarily shelve their operations because of the incoming perfect storm. But they did not heed to the advisory and instead they pursued their perpetual thirst for precious tuna and gambled the lives of fish workers. How come Malacanang is silent on these greedy tuna fishing groups in Mindanao?” the groups asked.

The Philippine Coast Guard in General Santos City confirmed that more than 300 fishemen working for six major tuna companies in this city are still missing based on the report submitted by Rugela Fishing, RAFI Incorporated, RLG Fishing, DSG Fishing, LPS Fishing and Salazar Fishing. The 6 tuna companies acknowledged that 46 tuna fishing boats and its crew members were still unaccounted as of Saturday last week.

The tuna firms submitted documents containing the identification of fish workers and ship crew, including other details such as number of fisherworkers on board of these tuna fishing boats at the time typhoon Pablo pounded General Santos City and other provinces in Mindanao.

The groups said they were puzzled why the PCG stationed in General Santos still allowed tuna fishing boats to sail and fish for tuna. Despite the very strong weather forecast about typhoon Pablo.

“The national government, the local government and the owners of tuna fishing fleets should refrain from blaming the tuna fish workers. Definitely it is not the fault of tuna fish workers. These small people and modern-day slaves in tuna factories are the victims here. It is the fault of few moneyed people who regularly make huge money from extracting tuna off Mindanao waters,” they asserted.
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