DAVAO CITY—A third of the country’s total fish production comes from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), maintaining its performance as the country’s top fish producer for the last three years.
BARMM contributed 31.6 percent of the total fisheries production for the first quarter of this year, according to the Fisheries Situationer released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on June 29.
The BARMM was followed by Region IX (Zamboanga Peninsula) with 11.6 percent, Region III (Central Luzon) with 10.8 percent, and Region IV (Calabarzon) with 8.6 percent.
The BARMM recorded the highest fishery production in the entire Philippines for two consecutive years in 2021 and 2022, with production volume of 4.25 million metric tons (MMT) and 4.34 MMT, respectively.
These accounted for the two years’ 30.57 percent and 41.27 percent growth, respectively.
Last year’s production for the country’s fisheries sector was an all-time-high growth of 2.16 percent in production volume since 2010.
PENDATUN Patarasa, director-general for fishery services of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Agrarian Reform (Mafar), attributed the performance “to the strengthened collaboration between relevant government instrumentalities, the private sector, the fisherfolk, and other key stakeholders.”
Patarasa added, “The factors in sustaining the fisheries production increase are the continuing technical assistance and capacity building, provision of appropriate production support on capture, aquaculture, and post-harvest and marketing to the fisherfolk, and strengthened Fishery Regulatory, Quarantine, and Law Enforcement across the region.”
To sustain the gains in the fisheries sector, the ministry, he said, must double its efforts to ensure the implementation of plans and programs that maximize its contribution toward improving the regional economy, increasing fisherfolk’s income, and achieving a food-secure Bangsamoro region.
In April this year, officials from DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) and Mafar met to discuss the recent directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to expand the country’s fisheries production by 10 percent.
BFAR Director and Assistant National Director Isidro Velayo, BFAR National Director Atty. Demosthenes Escoto, Regional Director Sammy Malvas, Fisheries Planning, and Evaluation Chief Maria Abegail Albaladejo, met Mafar’s Patarasa, Director II for Fisheries Operations Dr. Macmod Mamalangkap, and Director for Agrarian Reform Support Services Dr. Tong Pinguiaman.
The Mafar has eyed high-impact projects such as post-harvest facilities, including seaweed warehouse, construction, and rehabilitation of existing fish ports/landings to reduce the high fisheries post-harvest losses.
“Mafar is looking at augmenting the production of the regional production both in aquaculture and fisheries,” Patarasa said.
THE Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the ad hoc Parliament of the region, chipped in to strengthen this huge contribution to the national fisheries production.
Member of Parliament Ali Sangki has proposed the establishment of the Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Engineering (BAFE) in BARMM, not only to continue its production performance but also to modernize and “agro-industrialize” the agricultural and fisheries sector in the Bangsamoro region.
The BTA Bill No. 221, or Bureau of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Services Act of 2020, aims to strengthen and institutionalize agricultural and biosystems engineering services of the local government units to enhance regional food security and economic prosperity.
PSA data showed that the agri-fisheries sector accounted for the largest share of the region’s total economic performance in 2018, contributing 55.6 percent of its 7.2-percent growth rate in the Gross Regional Domestic Product.
The proposed BAFE-BARMM will operate under Mafar, “taking charge of various crucial tasks, such as fisheries mechanization, farm-to-market roads, agri-fisheries infrastructure development, soil and water conservation, rural agro-industrialization, and food logistics infrastructures.”
The bureau will also be responsible for preparing, evaluating and recommending engineering plans, designs and technical specifications for agricultural, fisheries and biosystems mechanization, irrigation and infrastructure projects.
As part of the proposal, the agricultural and biosystems engineering groups or units within the first- to third-class provincial, city and municipal local government units in BARMM will be strengthened, institutionalized and transformed into Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) offices.
The BAFE-BARMM and other agencies and professional organizations will formulate and implement an Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Human Resource Development Master Plan.
Earlier in June, the Bangsamoro Parliament introduced Bill No. 180, or the Bangsamoro Integrated Coastal Management Act of 2023, to establish a mechanism and adopt an integrated coastal management policy that will promote sustainable development while preserving the ecological integrity of the region.
The authors of the bill, MPs Amilbahar Mawallil, Rasol Mitmug Jr., Sittie Fahanie Uy-Oyod, Hashemi Dilangalen, and Hamid Malik, said the coastal areas serve as crucial transportation hubs, connecting communities within the region and across the country.
Mawallil also noted that these environments face various threats, including overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, and the impacts of climate change such as rising sea levels and increasing ocean temperatures.
Regulating fishing practices, reducing pollution, and conserving habitat areas through the establishment of marine protected areas are among the key measures highlighted in the bill to ensure the continued health and productivity of coastal environments.
“By implementing measures to safeguard these valuable ecosystems, we can ensure that they continue to provide benefits to current and future generations,” Mawallil said.
The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy will provide guidelines for coastal zoning and management, including the delineation of coastal areas, identification of land uses, and regulation of activities in the coastal zone.
An Integrated Coastal Management Council will be created to oversee the implementation of the integrated coastal management policy. This council will develop and implement a coastal management plan, take measures to protect and conserve coastal and marine ecosystems, coordinate with law enforcement agencies to enforce laws and regulations, collaborate with the Ministry of Trade, Investments and Tourism to develop sustainable economic activities, and work with the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government to ensure the active participation of local government units and stakeholders in the integrated coastal management process.
BARMM has steadily dusted off the ashes of its reputation of being the poorest among the regions, to set a record-after-record performance. It was recently recognized as posting the 10th fastest economic growth among all regions in the country, with its economy growing at 6.6 percent in 2022.
PSA-BARMM Regional Director Akan Tula reported that the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sector increased to 3.5 percent, industry increased to 6.1 percent, and services sector increased to 9.8 percent.
“The economic performance of BARMM grew by 6.6 percent in 2022, though slower than the previous year’s growth rate at 7.5 percent, but still increased—which indicates good economic performance of the region,” Tula said.
“This means that in 2022, BARMM’s per capita household final consumption expenditure was estimated at P56,970, higher by 4.5 percent than the previous year’s level, which was estimated at P54,528,” he added.
By May this year, BARMM ranked sixth lowest among all regions in the Philippines with a notable inflation rate of 6.1 percent. This figure marks a significant drop from April’s 6.7 percent.
By June, BARMM’s inflation rate dropped to 6 percent.
In his second State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said his administration was proud of the progress in the BARMM.
“It will be self-governing, it will be progressive, and it will be effective,” the President said, citing the transition phase which saw local governments, royal families, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) all engaged and represented, with the support of the international community.
“Through the BARMM, we have strengthened the nation’s prospects for finally achieving sustainable progress anchored on a true and lasting peace in Southern Philippines,” he said.