An aquaculture firm is now awaiting the approval of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) for its unsolicited proposal to breed and harvest fish and other seafood products in Pantabangan Dam, one of the largest dams in Asia.
This, while the advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan started pushing for the crafting of development and regulatory policies on tapping dams and protected areas for aquaculture.
Norberto O. Chingcuanco, vice president for planning of Feedmix Group, said his company has submitted last year a “detailed proposal” to NIA to set up aquaculture operations in Pantabangan Reservoir.
“NIA is reviewing our detailed proposal. It even formed a team to scrutinize the proposal. The agency is starting from scratch in terms of the process and we understand that it will take time,” Chingcuanco said in a virtual briefing.
The proposal, he said, particularly came from Feedmix Specialist, Inc. and its subsidiaries.
According to the firm’s website, Feedmix is currently the leading integrated aquaculture company in the Philippines, with 30 years of presence in the industry.
Though Chingcuanco didn’t particularly specify the investment required for the company’s aforementioned proposal, he said that in setting up of fish cage alone, each cage costs P500,000 to build and that minimum of 100 cages is needed for the business to be sustainable.
Aside from the cages, investments are also needed for the workforce and other operational and infrastructure requirements of the project.
Chingcuanco also said the company doesn’t necessarily need government support when it comes to the investment, but it is requesting assistance in terms of getting permits.
Right now, there have been fishing operations in Pantambangan Reservoir since the 1990s, but it only involves groups of small fishermen.
During the same virtual briefing, Asis Perez, convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan, said the entry of aquaculture players in the area will help improve the regulation and the fisheries output in the reservoir.
Chingcuanco likewise pointed out that his company already had a dialogue with fishermen in the areas and pledged to not disturb the areas where the latter currently operate.
Meanwhile, Perez also said that aside from Feedmix, there are other players from the aquaculture industry that have expressed interest to tap dams and other protected areas across the country for fisheries production.
“We have a lot of water resources like dams and protected areas that are not yet tapped as fish production areas,” Perez said. “What we would have wanted is to make these dams multi-use not just for energy production but also fish production”.
“We are hoping that other agencies, not just DA [Department of Agriculture] and BFAR [Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources], can see this proposal and help us spread the information,” Perez, who served as BFAR Director during the previous administration, said.
Aside from Pantambangan, other areas that can be developed as fish production areas are San Roque Dam, Lake Lanao, Lake Mainit, among others, Perez said.
Tugon Kabuhayan’s proposal came amid the rising prices of farm commodities in Metro Manila.
He said that to ensure food security and the availability of affordable food in the country, there’s a need for the government to focus on fish production since Filipinos consume 36.8 kilograms of fish per capita per year.
“In terms of prices, you can see that the price of fish, from the industry’s perspective, doesn’t really move much, compared to other commodities like pork.
As of Monday, the prevailing prices of bangus at some markets in Metro Manila stood at P170 per kilogram (/kg) to P160/kg, while the price of tilapia averages from P130/kg to P120/kg, based on the latest monitoring report of DA.
The prevailing prices of pork kasim, on the other hand, stood around P360/kg to P350/kg, while pork liempo costs P420/kg to P380/kg.