Protect VIP, a coalition of communities, sectors, and advocates for the protection of the Verde Island Passage (VIP), urged the new Department of Agriculture Secretary to address food security issues from marine resources and support small-scale fisherfolk fishing in municipal and coastal waters.
On November 3, 2023, Francisco Tiu was appointed the new Department of Agriculture Secretary by President Marcos following the latter’s one-year in the post. Tiu’s priority is to boost food production and redesign the agricultural sector to make it more modernized to address the agency’s current issues on food security and importation.
“Every person that takes over the post of Department of Agriculture is faced with the task of, first and foremost, being the champion of our farmers and fisherfolk to whom we owe our food security. We are an agricultural country yet the government has historically neglected the sector’s development and the people who serve as the backbone of this industry. They remain considered to be among the poorest sectors in the country and it is ironic that they are also the ones providing food to our tables for our daily sustenance”, said Father Edwin Gariguez, Convenor of Protect VIP.
Gerry Arances, co-convenor of Protect VIP, hopes the new secretary will recognize the vital role marine resources play in ensuring food security in our country.
“With the impacts of climate change getting more frequent and intense year after year, the new secretary should prioritize investing in research to make the agricultural sector climate-resilient to secure the produce and livelihood of the farmers and fisherfolk and to promote sustainability. This should go hand-in-hand with ensuring that the health of our fisheries sector is maintained by protecting it from destructive activities such as the case of the Verde Island Passage (VIP) and the fossil gas boom around its vicinity,” said Arances.
In the fisheries sector, the total fishery production of the country in 2020 was 4.4 million metric tons which is down from the 2021 production of 4.25 million metric tons according to the Philippine Fisheries Profile 2021 of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
“Ngayong may bagong pinuno na ang Kagawaran ng Agrikultura umaasa kaming magkaroon ng mas maigting na pagpapahalaga sa tulad naming mga mangingisda at magsasaka. Lubhang nakakalugmok na kaming tagapaglikha ng pagkain ay wala mismong makain. Marami nang nagdaan na lider ng Kagawaran pero patuloy kaming umaasa na magkaroon ng mas maigting na suporta, pangangalaga, at proteksyon mula kauy Sec. Tiu,” said Aldrin Villanueva, fisherfolk leader from Pola, Oriental Mindoro Fisherfolks Federation of Oriental Mindoro.
“Protecting and preserving our vital ecosystems, such as the biodiverse VIP, is not only an environmental imperative but also an essential strategy to safeguard the nation’s food security as well as the economic well-being of our fisherfolk, who are considered as one of the impoverished sectors in the country. We urge Secretary Laurel to place strong emphasis on creating comprehensive policies and initiatives that include protecting vital marine ecosystems and empowering fisherfolk and coastal communities to ensure a resilient and equitable food system for all Filipinos,” added Gariguez.