IN A bid to further advance the local fisheries industry in the country, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is set to prepare a 10-Year Development Roadmap for the industry.
"The Road Map, which I proposed... during the opening ceremonies of the 19th Tuna Festival in General Santos City, will identify the problems and challenges in the fisheries industry and the government interventions needed to address these," said Manny Piñol, DA secretary, in a statement on his official Facebook page.
Despite being an archipelago and fishermen having access to many aquatic resources, Piñol said the country continues to import fisheries and aquatic products to fill the needs of the local market.
"Among the biggest problems confronting the fisheries and aqua industries are the depleted freshwater fish sources because of overfishing and destructive fishing practices," he said adding that this results in added pressure on the traditional fishing grounds in the coastal areas because of the need of people for more protein.
Piñol also said another problem being faced by the industry is the country loses an estimated P3 trillion every year due to illegal fishing, including poaching by foreign and more modern fishing fleets.
"Many of these poachers are now operating in the 25-million hectare Philippine Rise, formerly called the Benham Rise, which has been acknowledged by the United Nations as part of the continental shelf of the Philippines," he said.
Piñol also said the captured fisheries program has not been given enough support by the government and all these years hatcheries have just focused on the production of Bangus and Tilapia fingerlings. Hence, the need for the roadmap.
He said the 10-Year Road Map will also institutionalize Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)'s Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan (MMK) program, which awards the cleanest coastal communities.
The Project Balik Sigla sa Ilog at Lawa (Basil) and the Fiberglass Boats Distribution Program will also be institutionalize under the roadmap.
Project Basil involves the seeding of lakes, rivers and creeks with indigenous and non-invasive fish species fingerlings while the Fiberglass Boats Distribution Program will teach poor fisher folk families on how to make fishing boats without cutting down trees.
"The Road Map will also identify the rich fishing grounds of the country and establish post-harvest facilities like ice plants and cold storage which are now absent in many areas resulting in losses of abourt 40% of the fishermen's catch," Piñol said.
Piñol said DA is set to convene next month the country's fisheries and aqua industries sector stakeholders to prepare a 10-Year Development Road Map which would set the needs and priorities of the industry to prosper.
"The stakeholders will be asked for their inputs on what should be done to protect the country's fishing interests in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise, two of the richest fishing grounds where illegal fishing operations are on-going," he said.
Piñol said other aqua-marine potentials will also be identified and the small fishermen will be assisted by government in an attempt to address poverty in the sector.
"When the 10-Year Fisheries and Aqua-Marine Road Map is completed, this will be submitted to President Rody Duterte just like what we did with the Road Maps for other commodities like Coffee, Cacao, Mango, Abaca and others," Piñol said.