The Philippines still lacks science-based policy decisions in fisheries, which prompts a need to immediately create the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR).
Limuel Aragones, director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, said the Philippine government is yet to take into account a lot of scientific considerations when it comes to the management of the country’s fisheries and aquatic resources.
He said that the intensified management of the seas surrounding the Philippines, including the West Philippine Sea, Visayas Sea, Celebes Sea, and Sulu Sea, will require a lot of resources and focus, which is why there is an urgent need to create DFAR.
“Right now, these are not being given priority because their management falls under DA [Department of Agriculture] which has such a broad mandate,” Aragones said during a food security forum.
“We are an archipelago, surrounded by seas. This is our great asset,” he added.
On the technical side, Aragones said there is also a need to give more attention to the biodiversity in our ocean, especially on the management of marine mammals, identification of native species, and difference of habitats.
“We have a lot of resources in the ocean that we can’t take care of because we are too focused on agriculture. It’s a different context because, in agriculture, we grow food. In fisheries, there’s still a concept of captive fisheries, which is inherent as opposed to the context of culture,” Aragones said.
To recall, the country’s total fisheries output is comprised of commercial and municipal fisheries and aquaculture, which is the business of breeding and harvesting aquatic species.
Earlier this month, Asis Perez, convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan, has called for the creation of a DFAR, saying that Filipinos’ high protein requirement is already enough reason to justify it.
“We want to emphasize the fact that it is important to create a separate department for fisheries just from the viewpoint of our protein requirement,” Perez, who is the former director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said.
“PSA [Philippine Statistics Authority] said our total animal protein requirement is 57 kilograms per capita per year. Of that, 37 kilograms come from fish. The requirement for other meat [like pork and chicken] is just 20 kilograms,” he added.
Right now, there are 19 bills that are being pushed for in the House of Representatives in relation to Tugon Kabuhayan’s proposal, while there are three proposed bills in the Senate.
The aim is to make BFAR, an attached agency to the DA, a separate government agency, with a focus on the enforcement of fisheries laws and the development of fisheries production.