Boost PH economy thru investments in science, technology

ILOILO CITY -- For the Philippines to achieve a sustained economic growth, experts said it has to be fueled by technological improvements, including research and developments, which could lead to better ways of managing resources.

Dr. Sarah Lynne Daway-Ducanes, assistant professor of School of Economics of the University of the Philippines (UP), who spoke at the 21st Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop at the UP Visayas campus here Wednesday, said growing the country’s economy means being able to also increase its resources.

Daway-Ducanes, who is also project director of Communicating Science and Technology Research and Development in UP (Cost UP) program, said one way to boost the economy is investing on human capital.

“By educating people and investing on health programs for them, we can be able to create a healthier workforce,” she said.

Through improvements in technology, which means better ways of doing it, more opportunities for the development of labor component is created.

“Through technological improvements, the production output is doubled even just using the same number of skilled workers,” she said.

Fishery contribution

Citing fisheries statistics from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Daway-Ducanes presented that the country’s total aquatic resources from 2014 to 2015 is at about 239 million hectares.

The figures comprise 234, 504, 460 hectares of marine resources, including coastal, oceanic, shell, coral, and coastal line areas.

The remaining 749,917 hectares account for the inland resources, including swamplands, fishponds, lakes, rivers, and reservoir.

The PSA data further showed that in terms of its contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP), the fishery sector’s share in 2016 is pegged at 1.6 percent.

It is slightly lower than the 1.8 percent and 1.9 percent in 2015 and 2014, respectively, it added.

“With more investments on science and technology, we can be able to maximize the potential of our aquatic resources, contributing to an increase in the contribution of fishery sector in the country’s GDP,” Daway-Ducanes said.

Ensuring sustainability

To boost the Philippines’ blue economy, local scientists and researchers are also pushing for the conduct of more science and technology development studies, especially those focusing on ensuring sustainability of aquatic resources.

In a media brunch on “Blue Economy for Sustainable Seas” held at Hotel del Rio here, Dr. Wilfredo Campos, of OceanBioLAb UP-Visayas, said it is important especially for local governments to identify “growth areas” of marine species in their respective localities.

This would allow implementation of necessary and immediate conservation measures on ensuring sustainability, Campos said.

Data he presented showed that in 2016, Western Visayas had the second highest value of fisheries production amounting to P26.94 billion. This accounts for 11.8 percent of total fisheries production in the country.

Blue crab, for instance, is one of the species that is harvested in commercial, marine municipal, and inland municipal fishing.

Among the three sectors of fishing, the production value of blue crab was the highest in marine municipal fishing, amounting to P2.87 billion last year, it added.

In his study “Settlement Habitats of Early Stages of Blue Crab in Northeast Panay,” Campos stated that based on the Blue Crab Production Report of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), a decline in catch of 27,000 metric tons was noted in the region in 2015.

The decline in catch can be attributed to too much fishing, the study showed.

“There is a need to prevent further decline in crab abundance so as not to impact negatively the livelihood of many fisherfolk,” Campos said, adding that conservation efforts, including regulation of catches and gears especially among identified critical habitats for early stages or “baby crabs” should be implemented.

Local industry boost

In Negros Occidental, the Municipal Government of E.B. Magalona, being the province’s major producer of blue crabs, has already intensified the efforts to boost the production of the commodity.

Current average production is estimated at about five tons per day, mostly exported to United States.

Mayor Marvin Malacon said the municipal government is doing an aggressive campaign against illegal fishing, and they have already penalized numerous violators.

He added that coastal villages were provided with appropriate fishing gears to ensure that their operations are in compliance with the guidelines provided by law.

“We have been implementing regulation on harvesting blue crabs and other fish products, especially in terms of sizes to catch, also to ensure supply,” Malacon said.

In its bid to ensure sustainability, the local government is also planning to establish a 200-hectare conservation area in Barangay Tomongtong intended only for blue crab production.

The project is seen to benefit fishing communities in nine coastal villages of the northern Negros Occidental town.

Productivity for fisherfolk

Economic development, for it to be inclusive, must be felt by people in the community – the fisherfolk themselves. The production side should be economically viable for them.

This is one of the reasons that prompted Dr. Erlinda Ganzon-Naret to conduct a study on “Potential Use of Three Legume Seeds as Protein Sources and their Effects on Growth, Nutrient Utilization and Body Composition of Asian Sea Bass.”

Asian Sea Bass, with scientific name Lates calcarifer, or commonly known as “apahap” or “bulgan” among people in Panay and Negros Islands, is widely distributed in the Indo-West Pacific region from Southeast Asia to Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia.

This hardy and fast-growing species, with seeds that can be easily obtained from private hatcheries, is a carnivorous or flesh-eating.

Sea bass is easy to culture in marine cages, freshwater and brackish water ponds, and has high market value and demand.

Ganzon-Naret, scientist I of UP Visayas College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, studied the potential of legumes as replacements to expensive commercial fish meal.

“Decreasing the cost of fish farming and production by the use of alternative protein sources in fish meal, will increase access to fish as a food source by the people, and increase profit margins for those in fish processing industries mainly small fishermen,” she said.

Results of her study concluded that of the three easy to source legumes used, mung bean seed meal is more efficient as it could be a potential protein source at 20 percent in the sea bass without adverse effect on growth, survival, and body composition.

The other two legumes are pigeon pea or “kadyos” and kidney bean or “bitswelas,” which also passed through various processing methods for seed meal production.

Ganzon-Naret said sea bass fed in mongo diet had the highest protein efficiency ratio (PER) comparable to fish fed control diet.

The scientist suggests that the result of the study may only be applied, for now, on small-scale sea bass production. As to commercial ones, further studies have yet to be conducted.

By equipping local fisherfolk to produce their own fish meal using raw materials that are cheaper and readily available, Ganzon-Naret said Asian sea bass, with current average market price of about P600 per kilogram, can now be made more available and affordable to the Filipinos.

“We have to remember, that not only is fish a vital food, it is also a source of livelihood and income for many,” she said, adding that “fish not only provides protein in the diet, but also the necessary micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that are inaccessible to people in lower income households.”

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