BFAR to fishermen: let yourselves be counted

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/03 July)—The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is urging fisherfolk to enlist to the National Fisherfolk Registration Program, which has a funding of P200 million that includes provision for medical insurance to registered fishermen, BFAR director Asis Perez said.

Perez and BFAR officials in the Caraga region held a consultative meeting here Tuesday with the local government units (LGUs) and other stakeholders to iron out some issues involving the fishing industry in the region’s five provinces.

The intent of the program is to help alleviate the plight of small fishermen, he said, adding that a fisherman who will register is entitled to receive health insurance.

“The municipal fisheries sector provides 27 percent of the country’s close to five million metric tons total [annual] fish production volume. This is higher than the contribution of the commercial fishing sector at 21 percent. It is, however, lamentable that this sector composed of at least one million fishermen remains to be the poorest of the poor,” Perez said.

Had BFAR completed the list of municipal fisherfolk, Perez said they “could have been given gasoline or diesel subsidy worth P1,200” similar to the Pantawid Pasada Program the government initiated for the public transport sector in the last few years amid the series of fuel price increases.

Perez said the program was also designed to assist LGUs in complying with the provisions of Republic Act 8550 or the Fisheries Code of 1998, particularly the registration of municipal fisherfolk.

The bureau had devised mechanisms to ensure the full implementation of this program, which admittedly is long overdue, in close partnership with all coastal cities and municipalities, he said.

“There’s a backlog of 15 years and we are seriously pushing this program to be completed this year,” he said.

Perez noted they have simplified the registration form to become “fisherfolk-friendly,” with the LGUs allowed to customize the registration certificate and identification card they would issue to reflect their official seals.

“For our part, we want to recognize BFAR’s real beneficiaries. We will use the data to generate programs for coastal municipalities, their fisherfolk and organizations,” he said.

To ensure “full compliance” by the fisheries sector, BFAR has earmarked P30 million for distribution to 899 coastal cities and municipalities in the form of incentives.

“Through this, fisheries technicians from the local government units in coastal cities and municipalities who will facilitate the registration of fisherfolk will receive an incentive of P15 per registered fisherman,” Perez said.

Perez said that coastal localities that can complete the registration of their fisherfolk will qualify to avail at least P2 million worth of fishery projects in 2014. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)