PRESIDENT Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has directed concerned government agencies to develop the necessary infrastructure and facilities and formulate a plan to improve the country’s fisheries sector.

The president and the concurrent secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA) met on Tuesday, February 28, 2023, with officials from various agencies to discuss the crisis in fishery and rice production and livestock supply.

"So, we have started to formulate a plan to improve the fishing grounds for our aquaculture, that is, in land, in our rivers, and in freshwater, although we have a good supply of tilapia and bangus. Although tinitingnan kasi ang galunggong pero ang katotohanan marami pa tayong ibang production (Although, galunggong is being looked at, the truth is we still have many other productions)," Marcos said.

"Now, kulang pa rin ang production natin sa fisheries kaya’t kailangan natin tingnan pati ‘yung tinatawag na mariculture ‘yung mga isda na nasa dagat. (Now, our production in fisheries is still insufficient, so we need to look at what is called mariculture, the fish that are in the sea.) So, that is basically what we were discussing and putting together, also we were already starting to give the tasking to the different agencies like DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), like DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines), LandBank, the CDA or the Cooperative Development Authority," he added.

Marcos emphasized the need for better infrastructure to boost fish production, and the interventions being implemented by the DA aim to rehabilitate and modernize fish port complexes and implement agricultural and fishery machinery and equipment service centers.

According to the 2023 Demand and Supply Outlook for Basic Commodities, the country's 3.55 million metric ton fish demand outpaces supply at 2.97 million metric tons, with 2.88 million metric tons projected for local production and imports at 0.04 million metric tons.

"Hindi tayo nag-i-import ng kahit anong produkto pagka maraming production para naman magamit natin lahat ng production na galing sa Pilipinas (We don't import any product when there is plenty of production so that we can utilize all the production that comes from the Philippines)," the President said.

"Kung mag-i-import lang tayo, kung talagang may kulang and that’s what I mean about the cyclical nature of crops, that we have to be sensitive to that (If we do import, it's only when there is a shortage, and that's what I mean about the cyclical nature of crops, that we have to be sensitive to that)," he added.

The President also highlighted the importance of a detailed cropping schedule to avoid importing products during the harvest season and to protect local production. Marcos stressed the need to be sensitive to the cyclical nature of crops, especially in response to climate change.

Last year, the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries (AFF) sector performed "modestly" at 0.5 percent.

Under the Marcos administration's Philippine Development Plan, the Department of Agriculture is targeting a growth rate of 1.8 percent to 3.3 percent in the agriculture sector from 2023 to 2028. The President aims to improve the fishing grounds for aquaculture in land, rivers, and freshwater, as well as for mariculture in the sea.

The modest growth was attributed to the positive Gross Value Added (GVA) growth of 2.3 percent in livestock and 6.7 percent in poultry, despite the decline in the performance of the crops and fisheries subsectors by -1.1 percent and -3.5 percent, respectively. (SunStar Philippines)