Despite challenges on the food supply chain, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) has assured the public of adequate fish supply as the Holy Week nears when demand for fish increases.
DA-BFAR spokesperson Nazario Briguera said in a media briefing on Wednesday, March 15 that the Bureau is confident of sufficient production because fishing grounds in the country have reopened after its periodic closure that allowed fish species to reproduce.
“Dahil nasa peak season tayo ngayon ng fishing activity, we expect na kaya nating punan ‘yung supply kahit tumaas ang demand sa Mahal na Araw (We are in the peak season of fishing activity, so we expect to meet the high demand for fish during the Holy Week),” he told reporters.
Briguera meanwhile noted that the DA-BFAR acknowledges some factors that may affect local fish production, including the unprecedented oil spill in Mindoro.
He said there could be lower fish output in Oriental Mindoro and nearby provinces following the continuous leakage of industrial oil from the sunken MT Princess Empress.
“Pero hindi namin nakikita na magkakaroon ng pangmalawakang kakulangan sa presyo ng isda because of the oil spill (We do not see a shortage of fish on a national scale because of the oil spill),” he said.
Briguera likewise pointed out that expensive fuel costs and post-harvest losses continue to be among challenges in bolstering the fishing industry but stressed that the Bureau has been working to address these problems.
“Alam natin na nagfa-fluctuate ang presyo ng petrolyo. Minsan tumataas ito at nagiging dahil kung bakit nababawasan ang fishing activities kaya ang DA-BFAR ay patuloy na nagsusulong na subsidy program at payao technology lalo na sa small-scale fisherfolk (Oil prices are fluctuating. Sometimes, it increases and affects fishing activities, so the DA-BFAR is implementing a subsidy program and utilizing payao technology for small-scale fisherfolk),” he said.
He said the Bureau has been launching post-harvest interventions to address spoilage. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. announced that the government would build 11 more cold storage facilities on top of those already being constructed at various ports in General Santos and Cagayan de Oro, adding that he expects the cold storage facilities to be operational by the end of this year.
Current fish spoilage is between 25 to 40 percent because of the shortage in post-harvest equipment like blast freezer, ice making machines, cold storage warehouses, and fish landing sites, according to DA-BFAR.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the country had produced about 4.34 million metric tons(MT) of fish in CY 2022, which was 2.16% higher than the local output in CY 2021 and 0.16% higher than the DA’s target of 4.33 million MT.
Earlier this week, DA-BFAR national director Atty. Demosthenes R. Escoto revealed the DA-BFAR National Implementation Plan and Matrix for CY 2023, copies of which were shared to regional directors, national center chiefs, division chiefs, and unit heads of the Bureau through a memorandum dated February 26.
Based on the national plan, increasing local fish production and ensuring its safety and quality were among the priority objectives this year of the DA-BFAR, which is mandated to implement the National Fisheries Program and other projects stated under the General Appropriations Act FY 2023 with a total budget of over Php6.9 billion.
The national plan was anchored on various policy frameworks, including the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan, and Commodity Industry Roadmaps.