BFAR?s restructuring seen to make the agency ineffective

Tuna industry players said retaining the current status of BFAR would assure the industry’s survival amid stiff competition in the global market.

Bayani Fredelusces, executive director of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. said the restructuring plan would render the bureau “inefficient and ineffective.”

“If it becomes a staff bureau, its powers would be clipped,” he said.

Executive Order 366 directs the downgrading of the bureau so as to channel resources to “functions, or programs and projects…that are directly involved in the socio-economic and political empowerment of the people or those that promote private sector initiative.”

Marfenio Tan, president of the Confederation of Philippine Tuna Industry Inc. whose members include the Socsksargen federation where he is also the president, said BFAR has clearly and directly supported core and frontline services of the fishing industry when it became a line bureau in 1998.

“It catapulted fisheries output to the three million metric ton level in 2001 and four million metric ton level lately for an average growth rate of seven percent,” he said.

Prior to these, fish catch was stagnant at 2.6 million metric tons for eight straight uneventful years (1990-1998), he added.

Industry records show that fishery contributes an average of four percent to the country’s gross domestic product.

The tuna industry, with BFAR’s support and guidance, has significantly expanded since the late 1990s, with the Mindanao-based industry providing 120,000 jobs and generating US$180 million in annual exports, said Fredelusces.

This has made the Philippines second in tuna catching now and the third in canned tuna production worldwide.

Also, BFAR has directly influenced the stability of market price of fish, given a few tolerable spikes and troughs precipitated by seasonal pressures or other government-mandated increases in cost of production, which the agency could not otherwise undertake as a staff bureau.

Owing to its significant contribution to the tuna industry, Fredelusces and Tan noted that the fisheries bureau deserves an upgrade and not a downgrade.

Local tuna industry players viewed the planned conversion of the fisheries agency to a staff bureau as “unreasonable” and suspected that politics was behind the move.

The manifesto also viewed the conversion as very ill-timed, as it came amid efforts by powerful industry players to block exports of Philippine tuna after being threatened by the gains the Philippines has demonstrated in the last few years under BFAR’s guidance.

It is as if the planned reorganization was meant to derail the momentum the industry painstakingly achieved in partnership with the fisheries bureau towards fisheries development and resource conservation, it added.

The proposed downgrading of the fisheries agency to a mere staff bureau, despite its immense support to the tuna industry, is tantamount to a withdrawal of support because such a move would threaten the growth momentum and hamper the sustainable development of the fishery sector, the group said. (MindaNews)