To focus on reducing the almost 40-percent poverty incidence among fisherfolk, incoming president Rodrigo Duterte should appoint a presidential assistant for fisheries with Cabinet rank as the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources is still to be created, returning senator Francis Pangilinan said.
“As an archipelago that depends on the sea for food, we should give fisheries its proper attention. Establishing a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources would help give priority to the problems of our fisherfolk, and until that is created, the president-elect can have a presidential adviser who can already help him do this,” Pangilinan said.
Government figures show that around 1.5 million municipal fishermen are registered to fish in the country’s 220 million hectares of territorial water in its 17,460-kilometer coastline.
“But the Filipino fisherman is poorer even than the coconut farmer and the rice farmer. We must ensure that the interventions in fisheries would increase their incomes,”Pangilinan said.
“Poverty is primarily a rural phenomenon. Agriculture and fisheries services and support systems should focus on increasing the income of the farmers as a benchmark. Having a Cabinet rank official will ensure that there is a dedicated body that will address and give priority to the concerns of the fisherfolk.”
“Poverty is primarily a rural phenomenon. Focusing on agricultural and fisheries services and support systems will benchmark increased incomes, and having a Cabinet rank official will ensure that there is a dedicated body that will address and give priority to the concerns of the fisher folk,” he added.
The presidential assistant for fisheries can help pave the way for modernizing fishing through eco-friendly technologies, post-harvest processing and storage facilities, and training, he said.
Pangilinan said this new Cabinet member can push for the building of community fish landing centers in coastal communities and decent fisherfolk settlements nearby.
Fish landing centers should be disaster-resilient trading centers or ports with freezers and storage facilities where fisherfolk can converge to sell their catch, while fisherfolk settlements are where they live outside the danger zone with residential tenure, said the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
“Two of the most pressing problems our fishermen face are the lack of decent and safe livelihood and shelter. Most of the time, they go out to sea even with a typhoon because otherwise they won’t eat. And usually, they live by the sea which is also dangerous when there is a typhoon,” Pangilinan said.
He said modernizing the fishing industry would help lift Filipino fisherfolk out of poverty.
“Like farming, fishing is a noble work that does not provide sufficient earnings. We need to modernize fishing and increase the income of fisherfolk,” Pangilinan said.
He also proposed the establishment of fishing schools around the country to introduce fisherfolk to environmentally-sustainable technologies as well as to develop a new generation of fisherfolk that is able to earn more and care for the sea that provides for country’s seafood requirement.