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Development for Whom? How Navotas fisherfolk resist the displacement of their people and livelihood

Posted on 11 August 2017

Background: Trade and Development

In asking whom development serves, we question whether policies like free trade and development projects actually benefit all citizens equally. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has been advocating for free trade policies that can put developing countries at a disadvantage. As members of the WTO, these countries agree to open up their resources and economies, privatize their social services, and allow less oversight of foreign corporate investments in development projects. These policies have contributed to the rise of global inequality. While developing countries seemingly benefit from trading with developed countries like the United States, WTO’s current trade policies direct profits towards wealthy corporations and stakeholders rather than a country’s poorest citizens.

The Philippines has been a member of the WTO since 1995, which has led to the Philippines transforming from a net exporter into a net importer despite an abundance of natural resources. Specifically, the value of fishery exports in the Philippines has decreased from almost 70 billion pesos in 2013 to about 30 billion pesos in 2015. [i] While the value of exports have decreased, the value of imports increased from less than 10 billion pesos in 2013 to almost 15 billion pesos in 2015. [ii]This feature article will outline the impact of free trade agreements (FTAs), international policies, and local Philippine laws on small fisherfolk in Manila Bay.

Navotas as the Fishing Capital of the Philippines

Navotas and Manila Bay. Photo courtesy of Michelle Gan, 2017.

The Philippines is one of the leading fish producers in the world, providing 3.1 million tonnes of fish and other aquatic animals in 2012. [iii] The fisheries and aquaculture industry employs approximately 1.5 million people throughout the country. In 2012, the Philippine fishing industry contributed an estimated 1.8%, or 196 billion pesos, to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). [iv] Tuna, shrimp, and prawns are the top marine exports. [v]

Navotas, a city of about 250,000 people in northern Metro Manila, is known as the Fishing Capital of the Philippines. [vi] Approximately 70% of the population derives their livelihood from fishing and related industries. [vii] Municipal fisheries production in Navotas consistently contributes 55 to 60% share of the Philippines’ annual fish production, although the total production has quadrupled since 1977. [viii] Navotas is also home to the second largest fish port in the country, the Navotas Fish Port Complex. [ix]

Yet, for being home to a 107.8 billion-peso industry in which 70% of residents partake, 38%, or 15,904, of Navotas households belong to the urban poor. [x]The average family income per year is P60,000 for an average family size of 4.65 with the income per capita of P12,903.22. [xi] Barangay Tangos is one such community of urban poor fisherfolk communities in Navotas, who rely on the Manila Bay to earn a living. Despite their coastal location, many of Tangos’ 33,211 residents do not share in the profits of the fishing industry in the same ways that commercial fishing corporations do. Barangay Tangos is comprised of small fisherfolk with small boats, locally known as bangka, who face challenges

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