Stakeholders of the fishing industry are calling for the creation of a Department of Fisheries to address the issues plaguing the country’s territorial waters.
“That has been the call of the industry ever since a long time ago. We’re supposed to take care of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the country and we’re dealing with international issues as well. A small agency like BFAR is simply not enough to do all those tasks,” former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Atty. Asis Perez said in a statement.
“What is needed is to develop a policy framework that will ensure that the private sector will be inspired, to invest, to put in the money so that the fisheries part of the blue economy is fully realized,” Perez said.
Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) president Edicio de la Torre supports the move.
“Fishers, they’re like on the margin. So, there’s not much attention paid to them. That’s part of the reason why they want a separate Department of Fisheries that can really pay attention to their specific interest, their needs,” De la Torre said.
The PRRM chief also lamented how “overfished” our fishing grounds are and how “big international boats come and fish…they really capture all because they have large nets.”
De la Torre also expressed dismay how galunggong, once the top food fish that Filipinos consume, “has become our top import.”
“They are frozen, and they are caught from our seas. Mainly Chinese fishing boats. And I was told they really don’t eat galunggong there. They just re-export to us,” Dela Torre pointed out.
Likewise, the PRRM president noted that the “Philippines is more than 300,000 square kilometers of land. Our Exclusive Economic Zone is 2.2 million square kilometers.”
“We are the 15th largest fishing nation in the world. The Philippines is a Maritime and Archipelagic Nation or MANA. And if necessary, we must defend it,” Dela Torre added.
Nestor Domenden, who sits as officer-in-charge of the BFAR, also mentioned that “the fisheries sector program in the 1990s recommended that the fisheries sector should be given a department level category.”
“First, we have to modernize our fishing industry. Second is that our laws should be based on science,” Domenden said.
Former lawmaker, Jonathan dela Cruz, for his part, said that the country needs to “upgrade our fishing industry.”
“We have a lot of fish and everything else but we don’t have the logistics for this to be able to process, for example, or bring to market,” Dela Cruz said. –LBG, GMA Integrated News