CAGAYAN de Oro Second District Representative Rufus Rodriguez has filed a bill seeking the elevation of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) into a department to manage the country's water and marine resources.
Rodriguez said the country is blessed with enormous bodies of water with abundant marine resources and that the proposed Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) would "ensure the preservation and proper development of the nation's archipelago waters and marine resources."
"Two-thirds of the territorial area of the Philippines is composed of water, covering a total area of 171 million hectares. For this reason, a significant number of Filipinos engage in fishing as their main source of livelihood," Rodriguez said.
Under the proposed bill, DFAR would have primary jurisdiction over the management, conservation, development, protection, utilization, and disposition of all fishery and aquatic resources of the country, including the habitats of fish and all marine life and over activities which impact on these habitats, except for municipal waters, which shall remain under the jurisdiction of local government units.
The Kagay-anon lawmaker also said the proposed DFAR would likewise regulate the production, capture, processing, and marketing of fisheries and marine products.
"This is to make sure that the country's marine wealth is to be exclusively used for the benefit of the Filipino people. The creation of the DFAR will help in pursuing the government's thrust to increase food production to meet the demands of our fast-growing population and alleviate poverty among fishermen," he said.
The DFAR would likewise have the responsibility of rationalizing all ocean sector initiatives which impact on fish and marine resources or their habitat, including but not limited to marine-energy exploration and development, coastal and marine tourism, designation of shipping lanes, protected areas, and marine industry development areas.
Rodriguez said the department will be headed by a secretary who would be assisted by three undersecretaries: one for fisheries production and utilization, another for fisheries conservation and management, and the third for operations.
He said it will also have the following agencies and offices: National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council, National Fisheries Research and Development Institute and Office of Ocean and Marine Affairs.
"It would likewise have a fisheries and aquatic resources information service, policy analysis and planning service, as well as personnel, finance, legal and property and general services," Rodriguez said.
He said the bill defines the powers and functions of the department's officials and offices under it. Several bureaus would be created to help the department carry out its functions.
Rodriguez proposed an initial budget of P5 billion for DFAR and another P500 million for the construction of its national office.
"All BFAR employees will be absorbed by the department. Since department na more budget, more personnel and more powers to develop our marine resources around our islands," Rodriguez said.