Opposition Senator Francis “Kiko” N. Pangilinan on Friday, Jan. 22 urged the department to put in place programs that would inspire local fisherfolk to increase their production as the Department of Agriculture (DA) stood by its decision to import 60,000 metric tons (MT) of fish.
“Mayaman ang Pilipinas sa aquaculture dahil ikalima tayo sa may pinakamahabang coastline sa buong mundo (The Philippines is rich in aquaculture because were are the fifth nation that has the longest coastline). Kaya nakakapagtaka talaga na mas pinipili nating mag-import ng isda sa ibang bansa (That is why it is a wonder why government chose to import fish),” Pangilinan said
“Suportahan naman natin ang ating maliliit na mangingisda para naman ganahan silang paramihin pa ang kanilang produksyon ng isda (Let us support our small fishermen so that they would be encouraged to increase their fish production). Isa sila sa mga nagsisigurado na may makakain tayo (They are ones who ensure that we have something to eat). Let’s return the favor to them by putting in place programs that will aid them in their livelihood,” he added.
On reports that most of the country’s fish imports come from China and are likely stolen from Philippine waters, Pangilinan said, “Isipin niyo, karamihan sa inaangkat nating isda ay mula sa China na hindi malayong galing lang sa ating sariling karagatan (Think about it, it is not farfetched that the fish we buy from China came from our own seas). Binibili natin ay malamang na ninakaw sa atin? (What we buy certainly came from us). Maling-mali (It is all wrong).”
Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar said the government pushed through with its earlier decision to import 60 MT of fish as there are supply gaps due to decades-long underfunding.
However, local aquaculturists refuted this claim, saying local fisherfolk have enough tilapia and bangus in lake pens harvestable over the past few months. Small fisherfolks echoed this statement, saying importations would only depress prices of their meager catch.
“Mismong mga mangingisda na ang nagsabi na mayroon tayong sapat na supply ng isda dito sa Pilipinas (Our own fishermen say we have adequate fish supply). Makinig tayo sa kanila at ipakita natin ang ating suporta sa pamamagitan ng pagbili ng produkto nila (We should listen to them and show to them our support by buying their products), ” Pangilinan said.
Apart from underfunding, DA cited the devastation wrought by Typhoon Odette to fishing communities which accumulated to P4 billion.
But for Pangilinan, if this is the case, then the government should step in and propose programs that would aid fisherfolk who were affected by the typhoon for them to start life anew.
The national government allocated P10 billion funds for the rehabilitation in the aftermath of Typhoon Odette.
“Mayroong allocated P10 billion funds para sa rehabilitasyon (There is P10 billion set aside from rehabilitation). Of this amount, P2.6 billion ang ibinigay sa agriculture sector upang makabangon sila (Of this amount, P2.6 billion was allocated to the agriculture sector so that it could recover). Perhaps the DA can also provide low interest loans to our fisherfolk who were greatly affected by the disaster,” Pangilinan said.
“Through this loan, makakapag-umpisa silang muli ng hanapbuhay (they can begin to recover their livelihood). Kulang lang sila sa pera ngayon dahil nga binagyo pero sigurado ako na kung tutulungan sila, makakabangon at makakabangon sila sa lalong madaling panahon (They lack funds now but I am sure they would be able to recover if support is given them),” he added.