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Speech: First National Fisheries Industry Summit

February 3, 2016

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Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
First National Fisheries Industry Summit
3 February 2016 | Philippine Trade Training Center, Pasay City

It is my honor to be part of this momentous event—the First National Fisheries Industry Summit where we will also launch the Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan for 2016-2020.

I am particularly interested in this five-year national fisheries plan due to the challenges that the industry must address and cope with.

The Philippines has one of the world’s richest ecosystems, characterized by extensive coral reefs, sea-grass beds and dense mangroves. It is located within the Coral Triangle and houses the world’s center of the center of marine biodiversity, the Verde Island Passage.

Despite this abundance of marine resources, we know very well that a large percentage of our population living in coastal communities remain poor. An estimated 4 of 10 coastal residents in the Philippines live below the poverty line.

Unsustainable fishing practices, urbanization and pollution degrade our marine ecosystems. Moreover, the changing climate poses great threat to our seas.

In its Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are now at levels “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.”

Oceans have acidified, having absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide emitted. This has resulted in coral bleaching.

For an archipelagic country like the Philippines, this unraveling scenario is a nightmare due to threats of inundation, decrease in fish catch, and weak tourism in marine environments.

Rising sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification are projected to cause major damage to coral reef systems.

Coral reefs are the food basket for the fish. A square kilometer of healthy coral reef may yield to about 30 tons of seafood every year. But sea level rise, floods that damage fish farms, and increased acidification of the oceans by 2050 could reduce farmed fish yield by 90%.

The destruction of coral reefs, whether due to coral bleaching or destructive fishing practices, would translate to lower fish catch and lower protein for the people. It is estimated that 80 percent of the animal protein requirement of Filipinos come from our seas.

Thus, I wish to highlight the importance of the Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan for 2016-2020 and express my support to the programs of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). This national fisheries plan should be able to uplift the fisheries sector through innovative and sustainable practices covering the four major fisheries sectors—capture fishing, aquaculture, post-harvest and marketing.

The convergence among government agencies is also crucial. The Department of Agriculture and BFAR must work with other agencies that have coastal management programs.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will start implementing the National Coral Restoration program which we funded under the 2016 national budget.

The DENR will implement the program based on current programs, such as the Sustainable Coral Reef Ecosystem Management Program (SCREMP), a national program to protect and rehabilitate coral reef ecosystems through a strategic and ecosystem-based approach.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through its Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), has a program called Filipinnovation on Coral Restoration, which aims to restore coral reefs in partnership with several universities, private institutions, local government units and other stakeholders. The program has established laboratories to produce young corals that will be used to enhance and restore the reefs. It also attempts to identify genes that could possibly help corals cope with environmental stresses brought about by climate change.

In 2012, the Philippine Senate concurred in the ratification of the Agreement between the Philippines and the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM) to Establish the Office of the WorldFish Center in the Philippines.

The WorldFish Center’s projects on small-scale fisheries practice and aquaculture will contribute to improving nutrition and raising incomes in rural areas. Its work on biodiversity information systems will provide scientific basis for projects involving natural resources management and aquaculture. Its work on environmental conservation, jointly with national institutions, will be key to fighting poverty, food security and over-all economic development.

In closing, I wish to call upon everyone in the industry to strike a delicate balance. We must aim to increase fish production for the benefit of our fisherfolks, industry stakeholders and the consumers, but we must do so through improvement of resource management, equitable distribution of benefits, and protection of the environment.

Thank you and good morning.