The almost 40-percent poverty incidence among fisherfolk can be significantly reduced by modernizing fishing through eco-friendly technologies, post-harvest processing and storage facilities, and training, said senatorial re-electionist Francis Pangilinan Tuesday.
In a dialogue with fisherfolk in Pangasinan, he said these would be performed by the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) he proposes to create separate from the Department of Agriculture.
“Tayo ay pulu-pulo at napapaligiran ng dagat. Pangunahing pinagkukunan natin ng ating pagkain ay ang dagat ngunit hindi ito nabibigyan ng karampatang atensyon. Sa pagtatag ng Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, matututukan ang mga problema ng ating mga mangingisda (We are an archipelago. The sea is a primary source of food but it is not given proper attention. Establishing a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources would help give priority to the problems of our fisherfolk),” said Pangilinan.
The former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization said government must help fisherfolk by building 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, he said.
“Dalawa sa pinakapo-problema ng ating mga mangingisda ay ang kakulangan ng maayos at ligtas na kabuhayan at tirahan. Madalas pumapalaot pa sila kahit may bagyo dahil kung hindi ay hindi sila kakain. At madalas, sila ay nakatira sa may baybayin na mapanganib din tuwing may bagyo (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.
“Tulad ng pagsasaka, ang pangingisda ay isang napakarangal na gawain na hindi ngayon ay nagbibigay ng sapat na kita. Kailangang maging maiangat ang antas ng pangingisda at ang kita ng mga mangingisda (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.
“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, citing government figures.
“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.
Pangilinan is seeking his third non-consecutive term in the Senate under the Liberal Party. He was Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization from May 2014 to September 2015.