In a bid to boost the country’s fisheries output, the Philippine government is amenable to the private sector’s proposal to set up aquaculture sites within protected areas and dams across the country.
This came two weeks after advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan started pushing for the crafting of development and regulatory policies on tapping dams and protected areas for aquaculture, following an unsolicited proposal made by Feedmix Group to set up fish farming operations in Pantabangan Dam, one of the largest dams in Asia.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Cheryl Marie Natividad-Caballero said in a virtual briefing on Monday that the government targets to increase by 2 to 3 percent the contribution of aquaculture or fish farming to the country’s total fisheries output.
“Aquaculture is one area [to boost our fisheries output] because more than 54 percent of our supply fisheries come from aquaculture,” Caballero told reporters.
“The goal now is to address certain issues that hamper the growth of the sector… we have to identify where the production areas are and to look at areas that were not traditionally used as aquaculture sites but can be used as fish farming areas,” she added.
To be specific, Caballero was referring to marine protected areas and dams as potential aquaculture sites.
She said the DA is already coordinating with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) regarding such a proposal.
This effort, according to her, will be a priority of the government’s newly formed sub-task group (STG) on aquaculture and fisheries by the IATF Task Group on Food Security, which is being chaired by Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
Caballero said some of the STG’s deliverables for this year include a list of non-traditional sites that can be used for aquaculture operations and a set of guidelines, including protocols and sanctions, in allowing the private sector to set up operations within protected areas and dams.
In 2019, aquaculture production stood at 2,358 metric tons (MT) or 53.41 percent of the country’s total fish production.
NIA is currently reviewing the unsolicited proposal of Feedmix Group to breed and harvest fish and other seafood products in Pantabangan Dam, one of the largest dams in Asia.
Feedmix is currently the leading integrated aquaculture company in the Philippines, with 30 years of presence in the industry.
There have been fishing operations in Pantambangan Reservoir already since the 1990s, but it only involves groups of small fishermen.
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.
Asis Perez, convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan and former director of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said the entry of aquaculture players in these areas will help improve the regulation and the fisheries output in the reservoir.