Recovery plan for fisheries sector focuses on food security, aquaculture
This April 16, 2020 photo shows fish caught off Cebu province during strict quarantine measures throughout the country.
Oceana, Handout
Recovery plan for fisheries sector focuses on food security, aquaculture
( - August 27, 2020 - 9:33pm

MANILA, Philippines — The coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on movement to curb its spread brought to fore the importance of food security, with the government recovery plan for the fisheries sector geared toward providing adequate food supply.

Results of the online survey conducted by the National Economic and Development Authority last April showed that 35% of the 6,863 respondents from the agriculture and fisheries sector were not able to sell their produce during the quarantine period due to restrictions in transport and logistics. Some 14% were not able to continue their farming or fishing activities during the same period. 

But the sector of agriculture and fisheries managed to grow by 1.6% during the second quarter, while other sectors declined. 

"Despite the restrictions and all of these difficulties that we’ve had in the pandemic, we see there is sustained production in both agriculture and fisheries," Carlos Abad Santos, NEDA assistant secretary, said in an online forum organized by non-profit Oceana Thursday.

"We have to sustain this for the rest of the year and onwards 2021 and going to 2022," he said.

Abad Santos said the priority strategies for the fisheries sector include providing fisheries-related equipment and technologies as well as the developing commercial-scale production, processing and packaging of fish and seafood.

The government will also organize small farmers and fisherfolk into formal groups and link small fisherfolk up with government nutrition programs and with online sellers to help them sell more of their produce.

The government also plans to ramp up the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of coastal habitats. 

Food resiliency

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said it began implementing a food resiliency plan—one of its initiatives to address the impacts of COVID-19—last March. It is expected to last through December. 

“[This] includes availability, accessibility, affordability of quality fish and fishery products as well as additional income for households and we also have the objective of stable income for fisherfolk while meeting the projected production target for food security,” Maria Abegail Albaladejo, chief of BFAR’s fisheries planning and economic division, said. 

The components of this plan include aquaponics — a system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics — fingerling distribution, the rehabilitation of hatcheries and the distribution of fishing gear and paraphernalia. 

Also part of BFAR’s recovery plans for the fisheries sector is the stimulus package under the proposed Bayanihan to Recover As One Act or 'Bayanihan 2'. Albadejo said this aims to provide funds to improve aquaculture. 

Among the elements of the stimulus package are seaweed development, sea urchin production and development, glass eel production and the establishment of multi-species broodstock facilities and hatcheries for oyster, milkfish, mangrove crab, shrimp and catfish.

The proposed Bayanihan 2, which sets a P165.5-billion emergency fund for the government’s coronavirus programs, hurdled Congress Monday. 

Rupeto Aleroza, vice chairperson of the National Anti-Poverty Commission - Basic Sectors, urged the government to set aside funds for the provision of vitamins, face masks and alcohol for fisherfolk and to implement a social protection program.

“This is to make sure they can work and will not lose their livelihood,” he said in Filipino.

Lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Oceana Philippines vice president, also called for a more inclusive response from the government.

“We all agree that food security is a priority but how do we get there? The first is get the voices of sectors especially the most vulnerable so these are fisherfolk and farmers,” she said. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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