Increasing the production of the country’s fisheries subsector will require policy reforms and adequate government support, according to fishers belonging to Tugon Kabuhayan.
The group told reporters in a press briefing that boosting fish production would help the government achieve its goal ensuring the Philippines’s food security.
“We are happy with the President’s focus on agriculture, including the fisheries and aquatic sector. This is a step in the right direction. The next possible step is the creation of a technical working group with government and the private sector to craft and draft policies to ensure the development of the sector,” it said.
Norbert Chingcuangco, co-convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan said “for the longest time, we’re just a mess with the BFAR [Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources], the BFAR is a mess with the DA.”
“By putting up the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, we can prevent what happened last time when the importation of vital ingredients to fish feeds was unceremoniously prohibited. Structural reform in the sector will address so many problems. Even now, it is easier to import fish products than to import ingredients needed to produce more local fish.”
Policy reforms and strong government support, the group said will allow the fisheries subsector to immediately recover from accidents such as the Oriental Mindoro oil spill and fight illegal fishing which robs 2 million registered municipal fishermen of livelihood.
“We should look at municipal fishing, commercial fishing, and aquaculture as a whole and not as different sectors. All provide food for the country. The government should give support to our municipal fishermen because they are the backbone of our industry,” said Dennis Calvan, a member of Tugon Kabuhayan.
“We ask President Marcos to address the issue of illegal fishing which causes annual losses of about 257,000 to 402,000 tons valued between P24 [billion] to P37 billion for our fishermen.”
The group asked the government to “strengthen” fish landing centers by equipping it with cold storage facilities and ice plants as this will prevent fishermen from incurring losses.
Tugon Kabuhayan proposed other reforms for a self-sustaining fisheries and aquaculture sector: long-term permits for sea cages for bangus (milkfish) and tilapia which are now renewed every year, and improvement throughout the value chain from hatchery to nursery to growing to storage.