By Mary Grace Padin
The country’s efforts to fight illegal fishing will soon get a boost as the government begins the construction of two units of steel hulled offshore vessels costing P360 million.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar), an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), led the ceremonial keel laying of the 50.5-meter multimission vessels on Thursday.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said the construction of the vessels demonstrates the government’s “serious commitment” to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
“This momentous event indicates the government’s serious commitment for inclusive growth and poverty alleviation in all sectors, particularly agriculture and fisheries sectors, as we further intensify the country’s stance against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” Alcala said.
Bfar officials said this marks the first time that a local ship manufacturer will construct multimission vessels. The agency said a medium-sized Filipino ship-making firm bagged the contract for the construction of the vessels. The government awarded the construction of the multimission vessels to Josefa Slipways Inc. It was designed by US-based company Incat Crowther.
The Bfar said the vessels can be used for law enforcement, research, rescue and relief operations, and development.
The two vessels are expected to be completed in 18 months. The Bureau Veritas, a member of the International Association of Classification Societies, will monitor the design and construction of the vessels to ensure it would meet international standards.
The Bfar said the construction of the vessels will serve as a framework for local firms who want to manufacture ships for the government.
Alcala said the agency is already preparing its budget request for 2017, which will include an allocation for at least two more locally manufactured multimission vessels.
The Bfar said the Philippines will need around six units of the multimission vessels to further boost its efforts to fight IUU. The agency plans to ask Congress for a higher budget next year to fund the construction of the additional ships.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), for its part, said the government’s underspending in recent years is taking its toll on small fishermen.
Pamalakaya Vice Chairman Salvador France blamed the Bfar for failing to fully use the financial resources at its disposal to boost the income of small fishermen.
From 2011 to 2014, France said the Bfar’s total unused funds reached a total of P6.6 billion. In the first six months of 2015, France said the agency’s unspent funds reached P2.7 billion.
“The Bfar and its officials should explain why it has been underspending,” France said.
He said two out five Filipino fishermen suffer from hunger and poverty. There are around 3 million fishermen in the country.
“The General Appropriations Act of 2015 has allotted a P6.7-billion budget for the Bfar this year. The Bfar should spend the fund this time for the welfare of small fishermen,” France said.
(With a report from Jonathan L. Mayuga)
“Pamalakaya said two out five Filipino fishermen suffer from hunger and poverty”. Well, that’s your problem. That means you are not fishing. Get back to work!