GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/24 February) — The city government is pushing for the release of a P200-million grant from the national government for the modernization of the city’s thriving fishing industry.
City Mayor Ronnel Rivera said Monday the grant will mainly be utilized to fund the required upgrading and modernization of local fishing fleets and the implementation of various support programs for the industry.
He said the local government is currently working with the office of Senator Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture and food, for the release of the financial grant.
“We will use this to develop further our fishing industry and eventually make the more than just the tuna capital of the Philippines,” he said in a statement.
Rivera said they initially tasked local tuna industry stakeholders, specifically members of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. (SFFAAII), to come up with sustainable project proposals focusing on the advancement of the city’s fishing industry.
He said they are specifically looking for proposals that will help local fishing fleets comply with the regulations set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
“We need to justify to the higher-ups that we need the auxiliary budget to improve our standing in the global export market and eventually contribute more in the country’s economy,” he said.
The WCPFC was established through the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, of which the Philippines was a signatory, that came into force in 2004.
The commission, which is overseeing the management of the declining tuna stocks in the Pacific Ocean, required fishing vessels operating within the area to install vessel monitoring systems, deploy an observer and use of appropriate net size to prevent catching of juvenile tuna.
The WCPFC cited that “purse seine net shall have mesh sizes not less than 3.5 inches starting at the mid-body to the entire wing while ring nets shall have mesh sizes not less than 3.5 inches at both wings.”
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources earlier acknowledged that most fishing companies in the area were facing difficulty in complying with the fish net requirement due to their high costs.
Aside from the upgrading of the tuna fishing fleets, Rivera said the city government has discussed a potential partnership with the Mindanao State University (MSU) campus here in terms of marine and fishery education.
MSU General Santos Chancellor Abdurrahman Canacan earlier proposed to “revolutionize a new curriculum for marine and fishery courses” through the university’s College of Fisheries.
Canacan noted that only a few students have enrolled in fishery-related courses and it might eventually affect the industry’s growth.
Marfenio Tan, former president of SFFAAII, agreed with Canacan’s assessment, adding that the new curriculum should be equipped with comprehensive subjects on modern fishery and fishing technologies.
Tan said that a part of the P200-million grant could be used to buy modern fishing equipment for the university like underwater sonars and radars to expose students in “actual fishing” methods. (MindaNews)