Come clean with figures on fish shortage and compare measures before importation permits, Legarda urges DA

January 24, 2022

Come clean with figures on fish shortage and compare measures before importation permits, Legarda urges DA

MANILA, 24 January 2022 — Deputy Speaker and Antique Congresswoman Loren Legarda expressed her disapproval over the Department of Agriculture’s planned importation of 60,000 metric tons of fish in the first quarter of this year.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) earlier said the country needed more than 800,000 MT of fish to meet the demand for January to March 2022. The importation was supposedly aimed primarily at stabilizing supply and keep prices in the wet markets from rising. One of the reasons cited for the possible increase in fish prices was the onslaught of Typhoon “Odette” which caused P3.97 billion in damage, and affected numerous coastal and fishing communities.

Additionally, there is the closed fishing season implemented by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)every year in the country’s major fishing areas to allow fish species to spawn and recover. The closed fishing season impacts. To illustrate, retail prices of galunggong in Metro Manila averaged between P250 to P260 a kilo last week.

For her part, Legarda opposed the importation, noting the public outcry and the allegations that the DA needs to address, such as, that there is sufficient supply from the previous importations still unsold that could tide us over, that previous importations have had little or no impact on fish prices, and that the closed season is about to be over. “We risk further marginalizing many of our small-scale fishers and coastal communities who are already vulnerable to a myriad of social and environmental changes. These policy decisions that tend to further bring down our most marginalized sectors must be based on evidence. Merely blaming Odette and not comparing other measures like faster provision of small boats and safety nets for the marginalized is not convincing.”

She lamented: “This archipelago is still rich in resources, which is why we are repeatedly challenged to enforce laws against poaching. Instead of prioritizing band-aid solutions that help importers and big traders but are harmful to the entire industry in the long-term, we must craft policies and spending that uplifts the poor and ensures food security for all in the long term.”

“I urge the government and the private sector, to rapidly mobilize and implement support mechanisms for small-scale fishers, coastal fishing communities, and associated people’s organizations,” Legarda added.

Legarda further said that, “our fishers in the coastal villages face a range of environmental challenges due to coastal erosion, mangrove destruction, the endangered species trade and, most seriously, overfishing. There is a need to consider the impact of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing practices. These are the reasons for our dwindling supply. Rather than using government resources to import more fish, why don’t we use these resources to ensure marine resource sustainability and livelihood security in coastal communities? Why not safeguard pollution control and environmental conservation through strict enforcement of marine fisheries laws?”

Legarda stressed the need for support services to improve the socio-economic conditions of coastal fishing communities, with consideration for gender and ecological supply chains. As an archipelagic nation, fisheries are essential to the country’s economy in terms of food security and employment. More than half of animal protein consumption (60%) of the country comes from fish or seafood. Over a million Filipinos are engaged in marine fishing. Of these, an estimated 800,000 are small-scale fishermen using traditional, low-cost techniques, notably net fishing from small boats and the fish corral. “And yet, we fail to give the most support to small-scale fisheries where livelihoods are under most immediate pressure from marine resource competition and degradation. We cannot reach our Sustainable Development Goals if we are only looking at the macro and not the micro,” Legarda concluded.***