DA Vows To Solve Fisheries Sector Ills

The Department of Agriculture (DA) will craft a 10-year road map that will detail the interventions the government will roll out to address the problems besetting the Philippine fisheries subsector.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Pinol on Thursday said he will convene next month the countrys fisheries industry stakeholders for the preparation and creation of the DAs 10-year fisheries development road map.

The road map which I proposed during the opening ceremonies of the 19th Tuna Festival in General Santos City will identify the problems and challenges in the fisheries industry and the government interventions needed to address these, Pinol said in his Facebook page.

While the Philippines ranks first in the world for having the longest coastline at 39,284 kilometers, the country continues to import fisheries and aquatic products to fill the needs of the local market, he added.

Pinol said the depletion of freshwater-fish sources caused by overfishing and destructive fishing practices is the biggest problem confronting local fishermen.

The DA chief said the Philippines loses an estimated P3 trillion annually due to illegal fishing, which includes poaching by foreigners who own modern fishing fleets.

Many of these poachers are now operating in the 25-million hectare Philippine Rise, formerly called the Benham Rise, which has been acknowledged by the United Nations as part of the continental shelf of the Philippines, he said.

The DA chief also noted that the government has neglected captured fisheries program and focused support on the production of bangus (milkfish) and tilapia (St. Peters fish).

Under the proposed 10-year road map, the DA will institutionalize programs to ensure the continuity of the governments efforts in revitalizing the Philippine fisheries sector, according to Pinol.

The 10-year road map will also institutionalize the Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan (MMK) Program of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), which recognizes the cleanest coastal communities, he said.

It is also expected to institutionalize the Project Basil, or Balik Sigla sa Ilog at Lawa, which involves the seeding of lakes, rivers and creeks with indigenous and non-invasive fish species fingerlings, and the Fiberglass Boats Distribution program, Pinol added.

He said the road map will identify rich fishing grounds in the country where the government would establish postharvest facilities, such as ice plants and cold-storage warehouses, to reduce the losses incurred by fishermen.

The stakeholders will also be asked for their inputs on what should be done to protect the countrys fishing interests in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise, two of the richest fishing grounds where illegal-fishing operations are ongoing, he said.

Other aquamarine potentials will be identified and the small fishermen will be assisted by government in an attempt to address poverty in the sector, Pinol added.

Once completed, he said the 10-year road map will be submitted to President Duterte.

Earlier, Pinol said he has directed Agriculture Undersecretary for Fisheries Eduardo B. Gongona to craft a road map that would outline the strategies for hiking Philippine seaweed production by 5 percent annually until 2022.

The countrys fisheries output in the second quarter of 2017 declined slightly to 1.1 million metric tons (MMT), from 1.12 MMT a year ago, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The PSA attributed the decline to bad weather conditions.

The government is keen on growing farm output by 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent annually starting this year until 2022, when the President steps down from office, according to the draft of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022.

The previous administration had targeted to increase annual agriculture and fisheries output by 3 percent to 5 percent.

The sector has yet to overcome recurring challenges related to productivity, competitiveness, climate and disaster risks and resource degradation and depletion, the draft PDP read.

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