GenSan backs BFAR conversion into department

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/08 Oct.) — Calling it a vital measure to ensure the sustenance of the country’s fishery industry, the city council has expressed support to the proposed conversion of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) into a separate executive department.

In a resolution, the council urged Malacanang to certify as urgent and for the Senate and the House of Representatives to fast track the passage of a law that would facilitate the creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR).

The proposed measure was initially filed in the 15th Congress but eventually failed to take off.
It was re-filed last July 9 by Sorsogon (2nd District) Rep. Deogracias Ramos and was referred on July 29 to the committee on government reorganization and secondarily referred to the committee on aquaculture and fisheries resources.

City Councilor Brix Tan, chair of the council’s committee on fisheries, marine life and aquatic resources, said the establishment of a separate fisheries department will help ensure more focus and attention to the fishing industry from the national government.

He cited the need for the country to properly adhere with the principles of sustainable fisheries by doing more responsive fisheries resource management; planning and seriously implementing a fishery management plan with the cooperation of concerned industry sector; and, exploring alternative measures to protect and conserve our fishing resource.

Tan said it will strengthen ongoing efforts by BFAR to properly manage the country’s vast fishery areas and resources.

He noted that the Philippines has about 36,289 kilometers of coastline, which is considered the longest by any nation in the world, and around 171 million hectares of territorial sea that is endowed with bountiful fishery resources.

A significant number of Filipinos are engaged in fishing as their primary source of livelihood and the that the industry contributes significantly into the country’s economy and food security and provides direct employment for over a million people, he said.

“There is a need to provide the long-delayed attention and priority needed by local fishermen, the fishery sector, and the Philippine waters as against traditional bias for land-based agriculture to ensure the preservation and proper development of the country’s archipelagic waters and marine or fishery resources considering the mounting concerns on the depleting resources of the sea,” Tan said.

Lawyer Asis Perez, BFAR national director, earlier said that with the agency’s current personnel strength pegged at about 1,000, it has at least one assigned employee per six islands or one employee for every 1,188 hectares of the total coastal area that it covers.

He said BFAR could barely deal with its adopted 50,000 hectares of fishery areas covered by a Fisheries Lease Agreement due to the lack of manpower.

Perez said he had faced some difficulty in some of the past international fishery negotiations as his counterparts were either ministers or holding key high-level positions in their governments.

This city, which is dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” has been a consistent leader in fish landing volume, especially of tuna and tuna-like species.

It is home to six of the country’s seven tuna canneries.

Tuna and tuna-like species, including other fish products, are the top export earners of the city and provide significant contributions to its economy by way of direct and indirect employment.

Tan said the resolution is mainly in support of “a recurring clamor” of the city’s fishing industry in the last five years.

He said the local fishing industry, which is represented by the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII), has echoed such proposal in the past five editions of the National Tuna Congress that it hosted.

Joaquin Lu, SFFAII president, said they had been supporting the conversion of BFAR into a department “as there is a need to give more attention and priority to the fishery sector.”

He noted that the Philippine fishing industry has been contributing significantly into the country’s economy yet the sector remains under the jurisdiction of an agency with a bureau level unlike other major economic and service sectors of the country. (MindaNews)