Small fisherfolk outraged over P9.3 billion unspent BFAR funds

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    SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga– A national  fisherfolk movement has expressed “outrage” over reports that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has had P9.3 billion unspent funds since 2011 amid the classification of fishing families as among the poorest of the poor in the country.

    The National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organizations in the Philippines cited in a statement yesterday the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department indicating that  from  2011 to 2014, some P6.6 billion BFAR funds were unused.

    “If we are to add the unspent P2.778 billion in the first half of 2015, the unobligated budget of BFAR will reach P9.3 billion,” said federation chairman Salvador France.

    “Despite BFAR’s 17 percent average annual budget increase, the fisherfolk remains the poorest among the poor due to the lack of adequate government support and genuine development programs. Even worse, the budget that was supposed to address the worsening plight of the fisherfolk are being withheld,” he lamented.

    France said “the  average of P2 billion annual BFAR funds weren’t spent for the welfare and livelihoods of thefisherfolk,” adding that poor fisherfolk are outraged by BFAR’s failures.

    “Two out five Filipino fisherfolk suffer from intense poverty and a large chunk of the 3 million fisherfolk and fish workers suffer from drastic hunger. But it seems the increasing annual budget allotted for the fisherfolk was only a smokescreen to cut huge ‘savings’ for Aquino’s DAP,” he added.

    France recalled that in  2013, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the Aquino government received much criticism for getting funds from the ‘early and anticipated savings’ of government agencies. DAP was later junked as illegal by the Supreme Court.

    “The unspent P9.3 billion is very crucial to the fisherfolk, especially these were the years when several strong typhoons, including Yolanda, have hit the communities and livelihoods of fisherfolk.” France stressed. He noted that for 2016, BFAR has a P6.7 billion budget  allocation.

    “BFAR owes it to the fisherfolk to explain this cruelty and release the budget to be used solely for the support and development of the Filipino fisherfolk and fisheries industry. Through Director Asis Perez, BFAR should explain where those billions of unobligated funds went.” France ended.

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