SURIGAO DEL SUR – To uplift the lives of the poorest sector in Philippine society, senatorial candidate Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan proposed the creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to be tasked with strategically developing the country’s marine resources.
“Let us fish for progress,” said the former Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (PAFSAM) in a dialogue with the fisherfolk in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.
“Other countries such as Brazil and Canada have a Department of Fisheries. In order for progress to take root, we need a Cabinet rank official who will take charge of fisheries and our aquatic resources. 1/5 of our national territory is land, but 4/5 is water. Without the necessary focus, we will be unable to fully benefit from the full utilization of our aquamarine resources. It is time to correct the imbalance by creating the office that will devote full time and attention to fisheries,” he added.
The Philippines has around 220 million ha. of territorial water in its 17,460 km coastline.
“We can and ought to be an aquaculture ‘super power’ considering we have the most diverse aquamarine ecosystem in the planter. It is time we make proper use of nature’s gifts to the nation to address poverty among our fisherfolk,” Pangilinan said
According to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, almost 1.5 million municipal fishermen are registered, but the poverty incidence amongst the fisher folk is 39.2%- 0.9% higher than farmers.
“The fisherman is poorer even than the coconut farmer and the rice farmer. What we must do is to ensure that the interventions in agriculture and fisheries would lead to the increase of their incomes,” Pangilinan said.
“Poverty is primarily a rural phenomenon. Focusing on agricultural 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. Our failure to tap this God-given resource to lift our people out of poverty is totally unacceptable,” he added.
He clarified, however, that this will not weaken the Department of Agriculture.
“Yes, we do have the DA. But they are already involved in a lot of aspects of agriculture. ” Pangilinan said.
“If we separate fisheries and aquatic resources, the DA will be able focus on the production side of agriculture. This is just a paradigm shift that will guarantee that the government’s resources will be fairly distributed, and all priorities be highlighted,” he added.
SET UP AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES CALAMITY FUND
Pangilinan also said that he will be pushing for an Agriculture and Fisheries Calamity Fund once elected to a Senate seat.
“They take the brunt of the damage whenever disaster strikes. Our losses in agriculture are even higher than in infrastructure. We must ensure that they will be able to immediately get back on their feet. If not, our food security be threatened, and the source of income of our farmers and fisher folk will be imperiled. This should not happen,” he said.
Pangilinan is seeking his third term in the Senate under the Liberal Party. He became the PAFSAM in May 2014 where he was put in charge of four agencies transferred to the Office of the President from the DA: the National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA).