THE Matina Pangi River is among the priority bodies of water in Davao Region to be repopulated with tilapia through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources' (BFAR) Balik Sigla sa Ilog at Lawa (Basil) project.

At the sidelines of the 54th Fish Conservation Week culmination at BFAR Regional Office last Friday, October 20, BFAR Regional Director Fatma Idris said they are currently looking into increasing the number of tilapias in Matina Pangi River as part of the Basil project which was launched by the Department of Agriculture (DA) early this year.

“Basil is a program of Agriculture secretary Manny Piñol to repopulate the fresh water like rivers and lakes. We will add fish. We are currently conducting seeding by putting in tilapia, for example, or whatever are endemic species in the area,” Idris said.

She added that about 5,000 tilapia seed had been dispersed in the river although they expect that not all of these are going to survive and about 10 percent are going to die because of various factors present in the river.

“Since Matina Pangi River is a communal water, the maintenance of the project will be a community project. The objective is to increase the fish stock in the river to have affordable and accessible fisheries through this Basil project,” she said.

In a separate statement by Piñol, he said the launching of the Basil project stemmed out from the realization that the rivers and lakes in the country do not have lesser fish population than many years before “when the use of chemicals in agriculture and illegal fishing methods like "electric fishing" and cyanide was not widespread.

Piñol added the decrease of these indigenous fishes’ population over the years can be attributed to overfishing and the use of illegal and destructive fishing methods.

In Davao Region, aside from the tilapia seed dispersed in rivers and lakes, Idris said they also do series of activities including distribution of fiber glass boats to the fisherfolks, fish deboning training for the women, and coastal cleanup.

Among the major lakes included in the Basil project are Laguna de Bay, Lake Lanao, Taal Lake, Lake Mainit in Surigao del Norte, Naujan Lake in Oriental Mindoro, Buluan Lake in Maguindanao, and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.

The major rivers included in the project are the Cagayan River Basin, Mindanao River Basin, Agusan River Basin, Pampanga River Basin, Abra River Basin, and the Bicol River Basin.