The Philippine government is urged to invest further in municipal fisheries and improve the capabilities of small fishermen so they can help increase the country’s fisheries production.
During a food security forum organized by Tugon Kabuhayan, Pablo Rosales, president of PANGISDA Pilipinas, said the Philippines government should increase the capacities of the municipal fisherfolk through the provision of efficient and environmentally friendly technologies.
This, instead of considering the proposed House Bill 7853 authored by Deputy Speaker Pablo John F Garcia of 3rd District of Cebu, which would amend Section 18 of Philippine Fisheries Code or Republic Act (RA) 8550 that would allow commercial fishing inside municipal waters that has less than 10.1 kilometers of municipal water area.
PANGISDA Pilipinas is an alliance of artisanal, small-scale, and subsistence fishers and fisherfolk organizations.
For its part, Tugon Kabuhayan suggested the distribution of good quality vessels to municipal fisherfolks.
It said that if the government will help upgrade the municipal fisherfolk’s productivity, the vessel should be made from fiberglass material, fitted with flotation chambers, and has separate compartments for ice and fish that will maintain the quality of the fish.
Tugon Kabuhayan proposed that the financing of this program should be included in the agriculture and fisheries allocation of the local government unit’s (LGU) additional budget coming from the Mandanas-Garcia ruling.
Citing government data, Tugon Kabuhayan noted that there are 265,481 municipal fishing vessels and 957,551 registered municipal fishers in the Philippines.
However, most of the vessels are very small and without engine, and might have difficulty catching substantial number of fishes. This is the reason why despite the huge number of vessels, the capability to catch is still very small.
Theoretically, if each vessel has a tonnage of 3-gross tons, properly designed and fitted with gear and cargo hold capable of storing 500 kg, the potential catch of each vessel in 150-fishing days is 75 metric tons (MT).
If only 10 percent of the 245,481 municipal fishing vessels are given this potential, the total production is 1.9 million MT.
This volume of production is bigger than the total commercial and marine municipal production of 1.92 million MT of the country in 2020. Based on current estimate, building a 3-gross ton fiberglass boat of 30 feet x 4.5 feet x 3.3 feet including two 18-horse power engine would cost around P250,000.
An additional P150,000 to P200,000 is needed for it to be fitted with a “bagnet” or “basnig,” a gear now allowed under the amended Fisheries Code.
The total cost to build the entire vessel with the gear is more less half a million pesos.
Tugon Kabuhayan said this is money well spent considering that each boat has a potential of catching 75,000 kilos in 150 days that when valued at P25.00 per kilo will already amount to P1.87 million.
The cost of this program to upgrade and rehabilitate 24,548 or 10 percent of the registered municipal fishing vessel is around P11.046 billion to P12.28 billion; and if designed for completion in 6 years, only P1.84 billion P2.045 is needed each year.
For his part, Lemnuel Aragones, professor and former Director of the University of the Philippines Institute of Environment and Meteorology, said during the same forum that the combined water resources of the country is 2.2 million square kilometers, but the municipal waters are merely 15 percent or 330,000 square kilometers.
He cited the continuing decline of the average catch per unit effort (CPUE) by municipal fishers from 10 kilograms (kg) way back in the 1950s to less than two kilos by this time.
He asserted that these municipal waters should remain protected and allowing commercial fishing operations in the area will further compromise the resources of these waters.