P11.2B project to boost local fisheries sector

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has approved a P11.2 billion fisheries project aimed at addressing the problems in the sector, reducing poverty, and ensuring food security.

HELP PLEASE. Fisherfolk supporters of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. under the group Nagkakaisang Mangingisda Laban Sa Gutom at Pananakop end their ‘peaceful caravan’ from Quezon City to Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila. Norman Cruz

In a NEDA board meeting, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Thursday the project was timely as in a few decades, there will be more saltwater fish cultivation because of overfishing.

“So, we have to get into the industry,” he said. “For some reason, aquaculture doesn’t flourish and develop. That’s why this is important to me. I think this is where — if not all, it will be part of our food supply. It will give very good income for our fisherfolk.”

Of the P11.2 billion total project cost, P9.6 billion will come from the Official Development Assistance (ODA) provided by the World Bank (WB).

The remaining P660.6 million will be shouldered by the government through the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), while the P1.16 billion will come from private sector partners and beneficiary groups or cooperatives.

Some 354,905 registered fishers in 24 provinces with a coastal and marine area of about 32 million hectares are expected to benefit from the project.

Although the share has been shrinking in recent years, the fisheries sector accounts for 1.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and is ranked 8th globally in terms of volume of production, including the 3rd largest production of seaweed.

With a total export value of $1.125 billion and an import value of $749 million, the Philippines is a net exporter of fish with an annual trade surplus of over $337 million in 2018.

The PH fisheries sector provides about 1.6 million jobs (4 percent of labor force), including those for low-income families engaged in subsistence fishing in municipal waters, and contributes to food security by providing over 50 percent of animal protein for human consumption.

According to the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), each Filipino consumes an average of 36.8 kilograms (kg) of fish and fish products per year, nearly twice the world average of 20.5 kg per capita.

They appealed to Mr. Marcos to protect their fishing rights in the Bajo de Masinloc as they said China’s Coast Guard continues to harass them. Norman Cruz

However, the fishery sector is among the poorest (poverty incidence was 26.2% in 2018). About 6.2 percent of the poor in the Philippines rely on fisheries for their livelihood.

The NEDA said the Philippine Fisheries and Coastal Resiliency (FishCoRe) Project was conceptualized to address the problems in the fishery sector, such as declining fish catch, high post-harvest losses, and high poverty incidence among fishers.

The seven-year investment will support the implementation of reforms aimed at improving the management of the country’s fishery resources and enhancing the value of fisheries production in selected fisheries management areas.

Project components include support for the development and implementation of appropriate fisheries management policies, the establishment of support facilities for the rehabilitation of coastal and maritime habitats, and the improvement of institutional capacities for strengthened enforcement.

FishCoRe also seeks to establish fisheries infrastructure and facilities and provide livelihood and enterprise development assistance to Filipino fishers.

Aside from the 26,877 jobs that could be created, the project proponents expect the FishCoRe Project to contribute to the administration’s thrust of ensuring food security and resiliency through improved aquaculture production, increased fish stocks, provision of diversified livelihood opportunities, and higher incomes for fishers.

Key growth targets envisioned for the project are a 3-percent increase, respectively, in household income, and in value-added fishery commodities; 5 percent reduction in post-harvest losses; and 1 to 5 percent reduction in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing incidences.

The project is expected to be implemented in two fisheries management areas (FMA 6 and 9), covering 11 regions and 24 provinces, with a total area of 32 million hectares of coastal and marine waters.

The coastal waters covered under FMA 6 are off the West Philippine Sea including Pagudpud Bay, Subic Bay, Manila Bay to Lubang Island.

FMA 9 covers the coastal and marine waters in the Bohol Sea, Panguil Bay, Iligan Bay, Gingoog Bay, Butuan Bay, and Sogod Bay.

The DA-BFAR has divided the Philippine archipelago into 12 FMAs, where it would implement area-specific policies and initiatives to sustainably manage fishery resources through a science-based and participatory governance framework.

The fisheries sector contributes significantly to the national economy, food security, nutrition, employment, and livelihoods.

The fisheries sector comprises the following subsectors: 1) aquaculture (including marine, brackish and freshwater farming); 2) municipal capture fisheries (within 15km of the shoreline) where vessels are limited to 3 tons (gross); and 3) commercial capture fisheries in the 24 fishing grounds of the Philippines outside municipal waters.

As of 2019, the total annual production from capture fisheries and aquaculture stands at 2.05 million and 2.35 million metric tons, producing a total economic value of P163 billion and P117 billion, respectively.

Marine fish stocks have been declining, leading to a drop of an average of 20 percent in capture fisheries production of all major taxonomic groups (pelagics, demersals, crustaceans, and cephalopods) over the last decade, which threatens the long-term livelihood for the sector and the ecosystem services provided by marine resources.

The first official publication of the National Stock Assessment Program (NSAP) data at the national level was released only in 2017, confirming either overfished or overfishing status of the majority of fish stocks.

Most fisheries in the project area can be best characterized as juvenile fisheries, where the size of most landed fish is below their length at maturity, thus not fulfilling their full potential for socioeconomic benefits generation.

All aspects of the fisheries value chains have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with jobs, incomes, and food security at risk. Disruption to domestic and international trade and changes in consumption are affecting the Philippines and will continue to be the case as the crisis persists.

Marine plastic pollution is an emerging issue in the Philippines where the fisheries sector is recognized to have dual characteristics – a major plastic pollution source as well as a sector severely impacted by mounting volumes of marine litter.

It is estimated that about 20 percent of the marine litter in the world’s oceans originates from the sea.

Evidence from around the world further suggests that a subset of seaborne marine litter, such as fishing nets and gears, causes disproportionate impacts on fisheries as well as marine ecosystems through ghost fishing and entangling sea creatures, including endangered species such as sea turtles.

Increasing volumes of marine litter have also been causing adverse socioeconomic impacts on Philippine coastal communities, particularly affecting coastal tourism.

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