Panganiban said the draft rationalization plan they submitted to the Department of Budget and Management retained BFAR’s status as a line bureau along with the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics while the rest of the bureaus and agencies under the department would be converted into staff agencies.
“BFAR will not be decapitated and our intention is to strengthen it to be physically present in all municipalities bounded by waters,” he said in a press conference here.
Based on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Executive Order 366, which outlined the government’s rationalization program, the downgrading of the bureau was directed 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.”
Panganiban gave the clarification in response to protests from various sectors being serviced by BFAR, including the country’s tuna industry players led by the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing Associations and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII).
Some 300 tuna industry players who attended the 8th National Tuna Congress here passed a resolution last Saturday appealing to DA the retention of BFAR’s line bureau status “to effectively address the many issues and concerns of the fisheries sector.”
BFAR became a line bureau of DA in 1998 through Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998. RA 8550 gave the agency the authority to exercise supervision and control over regional and field offices and direct responsibility for the development and implementation of plans and programs on fisheries.
The resolution cited that before BFAR was converted into a line bureau, the country experienced a minimal growth in fisheries production, posting only an annual average rate of 2.6 million metric tons (MT) from 1990 to 1998.
But between 2001 and 2005, the country’s fishery production jumped from 3 million MT to 4 million MT, or an annual average growth rate of seven percent.
“In the exercise of its line functions, BFAR has directly influenced the stability of the market price of fish, given a few tolerant spikes and troughs precipitated by seasonal pressures, among others, which they cannot otherwise undertake as a staff bureau,” the resolution said.
It added that because of BFAR’s inspired performance as a line bureau since 1998, the tuna industry “largely benefited in terms of better extension services, streamlined regulatory activities, pro-active response to challenges and opportunities, innovative production-enhancement projects, meaningful investments in research and development, enhanced competitiveness of exporters, enlightened programs toward fisherfolk empowerment and responsible fisheries management.”
Panganiban said the department’s rationalization plan provides for the expansion of the bureau’s presence down to the municipal level from the current setup which is provincial-based.
“In terms of the regulation of our shorelines, BFAR has to be physically present on the shores and oversee or implement their mandated functions and activities,” he explained.
Panganiban said the idea to deploy BFAR personnel to the coastal municipalities is to enhance their dialogue with municipal fishermen and increase the coverage of their technical operations.
He said such setup will also ensure immediate response from the bureau in case problems would occur such as red tide contamination and asphyxiation of fishes.
Panganiban said they observed that the bureau’s reaction to these incidents currently take a long time since they are not actually present on the shores.
“Our plan is to add more personnel from other departments to the bureau and will teach them how to implement our regulatory work,” he added.