By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is seeking “permanent” solutions to the rising fish prices through a measure calling for a hearing on the state of the country’s fisheries.
Amid proposals for duty-free importation of fish to tame inflation, Recto filed Senate Resolution 827 calling for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the state of fisheries so that “that permanent solutions, and not just stop gap measures, will guarantee a steady supply of a staple of the Filipino meal.”
Recto, in his measure, said he particularly wants to look into 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.”
“It is imperative upon Congress to help create policies which ensure that our fisherfolk are able to maximize fishing opportunities while ensuring the sustainability of fisheries and fishing communities, “ he said.
In his appeal, Recto lamented that certain kinds of fish have disappeared in markets, or if not, have become inaccessible to “ordinary” consumers.
“We don’t have to read economic reports to know that what was once the common fare is now food luxuries,” he said.
Citing government data, Recto said inflation in fish prices rose to 12 percent in the first quarter of 2018, from the five-percent inflation rate recorded in the same period in 2017.
Recto noted that one reason maybe the fishermen’s use of more fuel, of which prices have also gone up, in venturing out farther into the sea for longer hours but with less catch.
“Fishing is oil-dependent, with fuel accounting for between 30 percent to 80 percent of the catching cost. The industry utilizes 76 percent of the total gas consumption of the agriculture sector,” Recto said.
It was reported that the pump price of gasoline shot up to P54.20 by end of last June, from P32.72 per liter in February 2016.
“This will impact fish prices and fishermen’s income,” Recto.
In addition to the rising oil prices, Recto said climate change, pollution and the dispute in the West Philippine Sea contribute to the problem.
“When a traditional fishing ground has become a no-fishing zone, this depresses national fish catch,” Recto said.
Recto said it would be logical for the government to increase the allocation of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the national budget.
The DA’s budget for 2019, however, will reportedly be reduced by 10 percent, to P55 billion, from this year’s allocation of P61 billion.
The BFAR, meanwhile, was proposed to receive a P5.8-billion allocation next year, also reduced from P6.2 billion this year, and
P7.3 billion in 2017.
“Bakit sinasabayan ang pagbagsak ng huli ng pagbaba ng budget?” Recto asked.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported a decline in the gross value added (GVA) of fishing to the country’s gross domestic product, with four percent and 0.9 percent drops in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
While it accounted for 14.4 percent of the GVA in Agriculture, Hunting, Forestry and Fishing (AHFF) in the first quarter of 2018, it declined by 3.7 percent from a 1.2 period growth in the same period of the previous year.
In 2017, among the three subsectors of fisheries, the only aquaculture posted a growth of 1.7 percent.