Press Release
August 9, 2018

Recto : PH fisheries woes need durable solutions, not stop gaps

In light of the House proposal for duty-free importation of fish to tame inflation, a resolution has been filed in the Senate for a probe into the state of fisheries so "that permanent solutions, and not just stop gap measures, will guarantee steady supply of a staple of the Filipino meal."

In Senate Resolution 827, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said it must be studied on how "decreasing budget for fisheries, rising gas prices, the fishermen's inability to fish in large swaths of the West Philippine Sea, and climate change have pushed up fish prices and brought down catch."

Certain kinds of fish have disappeared in market stalls, "or are now beyond the reach of the ordinaryong mamimili," Recto said. "We don't have to read economic reports to know that what were once common fare are now food luxuries."

According to the government, inflation in fish prices hit 12% in the first quarter of 2018 from only 5% in the same period in 2017, "the highest in the food basket," Recto said.

One reason, Recto said, is that fishermen are using more fuel, whose prices have gone up, in venturing out farther intosea for longer hours, with less catch.

Recto said fishing is oil-dependent, with fuel accounting for between 30 percent to 80 percent of the catching cost. The industry utilizes 76% of the total gas consumption of the agriculture sector.

But with pump price of gasoline shooting up from P32.72 per liter in Feb. 2016 to P54.20 by end of last June, "this will impact fish prices and fishermen's income."

Compounding this are the "triple threats of climate change, pollution and the West Philippine Sea problem," Recto said.

On the latter, he explained that "when a traditional fishing ground has become a no fishing zone, this depresses national fish catch."

Recto said amid these challenges, "the logical recourse of government is to pump in more funding for fisheries -- to the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources."

But the opposite is happening, he said, citing the DA's complaint that its budget will go down by 10 percent next year, to P55 billion, from this year's P61 billion.

"Yung sa BFAR from P7.3 billion in 2017, to P6.2 billion this year, to P5.8 billion next year. Bakit sinasabayan ang pagbagsak ng huli ng pagbaba ng budget?" Recto said.

He said gross value added (GVA) of fishing to GDP declined, with 4% and 0.9% drops in 2016 and 2017. While it accounted for 14.4% of the GVA in Agriculture, Hunting, Forestry and Fishing (AHFF) in Q1 2018, it declined by 3.7% from a 1.2% growth in the same period of the previous year.

In 2017, among the three subsectors of fisheries, only aquaculture posted a growth of 1.7%.

In his resolution, Recto said there is urgency to look into the issue of rising fish prices, for the sake of consumers, and dwindling catch, to help the producers, the millions of fishermen.

"It is imperative upon Congress to help create policies which ensure that our fisher folk are able to maximize fishing opportunities while ensuring the sustainability of fisheries and fishing communities, " Recto said.

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