The Department of Agriculture (DA) is eyeing a “modest” 3-percent growth in fisheries production next year.
Undersecretary Eduardo Gongona, director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said he expects the fisheries subsector this year to sustain growth achieved in 2018 through various fisheries programs.
Speaking during the Special Launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land by the Climate Change Commission (CCC) on the occasion of the 10th year anniversary of the Climate Change Act in Quezon City, Gongona said the DA is pinning its hope on maintaining the current level of production in capture fisheries, while increasing production in aquaculture.
This means producing at least 4.55 million metric tons (MMT) of fish.
This year, he said, the projected output is 4.38 MMT, or growth in fisheries production of 2 percent, compared to the 2018 output of 4.35 MMT.
According to Gongona, the DA-BFAR will focus on capacitating small fishermen in both the aquaculture and capture fisheries subsectors to hit its target.
Capture fisheries production, he said, can be maintained at the current level despite the depleting fish stocks by “taking care” of the country’s municipal fishing grounds.
This, he said, will ensure enough fish to meet the local demand vis-a-vis the increasing population and hungry mouths to feed in the next 10 years.
Gongona spoke about State of Food Security in the Philippines and presented the DA’s Strategic Initiatives for Food Security.
A former official of the Philippine Navy with the rank of Commodore, Gongona underscored the importance of sustainable fisheries in ensuring the country’s food security. He said the Philippines has the resources, and capacity, to produce enough fish for local demand, as well as for exports.
“Fish is our future. We have the fifth-longest shoreline in the world. We have seas bigger than the sea of China. In Southeast Asia, we are second only to Indonesia, and yet we get less. What is happening to our fisheries? In my common understanding of our situation, we need out-of-the-box thinking,” he said.
“Our solution is common sense. Science-based recommendations, science-based solutions. We were able to form a science advisory group. We have many policies when it comes to fisheries that are not science-based, hindi pwedeng puro political decisions,” he said.
According to Gongona, it is important to make fisheries profitable, noting that in the next 10 years, if the situation will not improve, like in the case of farmers, there will be no more Filipino fishermen.
Fishermen in the Philippines belong to the poorest of the poor sector of society because of dwindling fish catch and cost of going out to fish, including the need to buy gasoline for their bancas, food and water during fishing expedition among other “necessities.” Sometimes, a municipal fisherman would be lucky enough to bring home 5 kilograms of commercially viable fish.
Image credits: Nonoy Lacza