A thriving blue economy

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Atty. Mike Toledo - The Philippine Star
A thriving blue economy
Agriculture Secretary Dr. William Dar.

We celebrate April of every year as “The Month of Planet Earth,” and this is by virtue of Proclamation No. 1482 issued by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2008.

And April 22 of every year has also been acknowledged as World Earth Day.

For this year, the theme of World Earth Day is “Restore Our Earth.” Its accompanying slogan is “as the world returns to normal, we can’t go back to business as usual.”

Indeed, just as our chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said in his Easter message to the women and men of the MVP Group of Companies, “We are here not to merely survive in this desolation, but to thrive as we improve the lives and welfare of our customers” — customers, of course, being the public in general.

Not to merely survive, but to thrive.

The Philippines is an archipelago that is blessed with vast marine resources.

Small wonder then that the fisheries industry is a major source of livelihood.

There are over 1.9 million fisher folk and other people who are dependent on the industry. And yet the poverty incidence in the fisheries industry is high at 26.2 percent, more than the national poverty estimate of 16.6 percent.

In the recent National Fisheries Summit 2021, which I had the honor of hosting and moderating, the various stakeholders adopted a resolution calling for the immediate passage into law of the establishment of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources or DFAR, a “level-up” from the current Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources setup that is under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture.

The stakeholders were one in calling on the members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to immediately pass legislation creating the DFAR.

There are currently three bills in the Senate and at least 12 bills in the House of Representatives seeking to establish the DFAR.

According to Kabayan Partylist representative and fellow British Chevening alumnus, Rep. Ron Salo, one of the organizers of the summit and author of one of the pending DFAR bills, the creation of the DFAR would “offer the prospect of harnessing the huge economic potential for a ‘blue economy’ with an estimated valuation of P75.02 trillion.”

The DFAR would be the government agency that would manage, develop, and conserve all fisheries and aquatic resources of the country, as well as regulate activities that impact the utilization of said marine resources.

Agriculture Secretary Dr. William Dar, who likewise graced the event as guest of honor, had consistently supported the creation of the DFAR. In previous statements, SDar had mentioned that the creation of a DFAR that is independent of the DA would give more attention to and support for the sustainable development of the country’s fisheries and aquatic resources.

The proposal is aligned with Dar’s eight paradigms of the “new thinking” for agriculture, which include modernization and industrialization.

There is an urgent need to create the DFAR to arrest the progressive decline of fish catch of both municipal and commercial fishers, and to protect and rehabilitate the country’s coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass and algae beds, which are essential for fish population to grow.

The national fisheries summit also cited the continuing decline in the volume of total fish production from 2011-2018, and this has been attributed primarily to the outdated and inadequate policies, as well as lack of proper budgetary support.

The summit was also attended by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, Deputy Speaker Deogracias Victor “DV” Savellano, Rep. Maria Lourdes Acosta-Alba, Rep. Mario Vittorio “Marvey” Marino, Rep. Ciriaco Gato, Rep. Leo Cueva, DA Undersecretary Ed Gongona of the BFAR, as well as representatives from civil society and fisher-folk organizations. All of them eloquently and passionately presented the current state of the industry and what it would take to address its decline.

We hope that the collective aspirations of both government and the private sector for the fisheries industry to thrive — not just to survive — will reap a bountiful catch.



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