Advocating for sustainable rural development requires sound familiarity with the struggles experienced by various rural stakeholders, especially of those least often heard of. Similarly, advocacy should also be able to take into consideration the emerging issues from our ever-changing times. In this light, the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC) headed initiatives to bring together sectoral representatives, local and national government officials, international development partners, and civil society organizations (CSOs), to jointly discuss matters related to the small-scale fisheries sector and climate change.
Two multi-stakeholder fora, both conducted at the Department of Agriculture in Quezon City, were conducted last year to discuss such issues. These events were organized by ANGOC in partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), and the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF).
The two events built upon consultations done with communities and local governments in four provinces (Quezon, Palawan, Eastern Samar, and Misamis Oriental), two roundtable discussions with CSOs, and one forum with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), The national fora had thus become a platform to elevate the issues, learnings, and recommendations gathered from the previous consultations to the national level.
Safeguarding small-scale fishers in pursuit of the nation’s food security
On 2 October 2017, the National Multi-Stakeholder Forum on the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries (VGSSF) was conducted.
The forum was attended by a total of 58 individuals – 32 males, and 26 females – representing 9 national government offices, 1 local government unit, 4 people’s organizations, 9 civil society organizations, and 6 international development partners.
Ms. Marita Rodriguez, Executive Director of the NGOs for Fisheries Reform (NFR), provided the body with a summary of her study on the policies and laws related to fisheries in the country, state of and issues faced by small-scale Filipino fishers, and the VGSSF.
Around 1.8 million municipal fishers in the Philippines contribute to more than 26 percent of the country’s total fish production. However, small fisherfolk remain among the poorest of the poor, with 39.2 percent of fishers living below the poverty line.
In this regard, the VGSSF may provide guidance to national and local government offices through its rights-based recognition of the important role of small-scale fisheries in meeting the nutritional and socioeconomic needs of Filipinos. The VGSSF represent the first international instrument dedicated to the immensely important but often small-scale fisheries sector. These guidelines have been developed in support to the overall principles and provisions of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
Inputs from the consultations and the national forum were then incorporated into a scoping study on legislations related to fisheries in the Philippines and the VGSSF, which may be accessed here.
Land tenure security as key to building resilience in the face of climate change
In the following month, on 10 November 2017, the National Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Tenure and Climate Change took place. This forum was attended by 66 individuals (28 males and 38 females) from 20 national government offices, 4 local government units, 5 people’s organizations, 7 civil society organizations, 1 academic institution, and 2 international development partners.
Because of its archipelagic structure and its geographic location, the Philippines is regarded as one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to the natural hazards and their devastating effects. According to the World Bank (2008), 50.3% of the country’s land area and 81.3% of its population are vulnerable to natural hazards. The Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) has consistently ranked the Philippines among the top 5 most disaster-hit countries. According to the Center, a total of 278 significant natural disasters occurred from 2000 to September 2017.
Atty. Joyce Melcar Tan of the Ateneo School of Law delivered a presentation on the results of a study conducted by herself and Atty. Antonio La Vina, which scoped legislations and international instruments related to climate change, natural disasters, and tenure, and attempted to map out their links with each other. This study found that while linkages between legislations on climate change and natural disasters are strong, their linkages to legislations on tenure are abstract.
Furthermore, the analyzed laws do not discuss tenure rights over forests and fisheries. On the other hand, among the international instruments assessed, only the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests explicitly mentioned the need to secure tenure in the face of intensifying natural disasters and climate change.
Former ANGOC Chairperson Antonio Quizon then presented his study on the links between tenure and climate change in the Philippines. Two of the strongest typhoons in recent history – tropical storms Haiyan (Yolanda), and Washi (Sendong) – served to highlight the relationships between the impacts of climate change, social and policy responses, and land tenure. His discussion centered upon the importance of tenure security in climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Discussions from the previous consultations as well as the national forum then served as inputs to the finalization of the studies presented. The study on the scoping of climate change and tenure legislations as well as Mr. Quizon’s paper on the links between climate change and tenure in the Philippines may also be downloaded from ANGOC’s publications portal.
These above-mentioned initiatives were made possible through the support of FAO.