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Roque mulls strengthening BFAR mandate

Harry Roque

UniTeam senatorial aspirant Harry Roque is considering an overhaul of the Bureau of Fisheries Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR) legal framework to address the government importation of ‘galunggong’ (round scad) that used to abound in Philippine waters.

Roque said that if elected in the May 2022 elections, he would strengthened the BFAR’s mandate to enable the agency to oversee national matters concerning food security and revenues derived from marine products export.

Roque, however, stopped short of proposing a separate department for the attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA) as this may result in further bloating the bureaucracy.

“I find it ironic if not unacceptable that we have a shortfall in ‘galunggong’ supply when our country is at the global center of marine biodiversity and has 2.2 million km2 of marine waters that includes our exclusive economic zone,” Roque said.

Last month, the agriculture department announced that it would import some 60,000 metric tons of small pelagic fish such as ‘galunggong’ owing to a fish supply deficiency in the first quarter of 2022.

The former presidential spokesman said the “fishing sector involves two primordial issues: ensuring food security by increasing fish production, as well as maximizing possibilities for livelihood source.”

Roque proposed a national policy, with BFAR as implementing agency, that would strike a delicate balance between the need to provide food for Filipinos and the need to earn from marine export products.”

According to Roque, the said policy would guide the government to identify fishery products that will receive priority budget allocation and other resources annually.

Roque also stressed that the marine agricultural sector could be a top dollar-earner for the country, such as the aquaculture of seaweed, ‘lapu-lapu’ (grouper), and lobster.

“Our seaweed farmers need government support because the Philippines is one of the world’s top exporters of this marine algae,” Roque said. “Domestically, there is a huge demand for the marine algae, especially among local toothpaste manufacturers.”

Citing that live ‘lapu-lapu’ is among the country’s biggest marine export products to China, Roque disclosed that most culture farms in Palawan send live ‘lapu-lapu’ directly to their clients in Hongkong.

Roque added that several Tawi-Tawi residents are now successfully engaged in lobster aquaculture and export, as attested by provincial governor Yshmael Sali.

The fishing industry’s contribution to the nation’s gross development product (GDP) was pegged at 1.3 percent in constant prices based on the 2018 data from the DA.

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