“Our country is one of the world's top producers of fish and aquatic plants. Given our distinct advantage in natural resources, we must exert greater effort to ensuring that we can utilise these resources amid the dangers of the climate crisis and increasing food insecurity,” Representative Lee said in a statement to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday 12 October.
“Through mariculture, we could provide a renewable and scalable source of food for Filipino families, as well as livelihood for those living in fishing communities,” he added.
Mariculture is the farming of aquatic plants and animals through sea cages, long lines and other culture structures in marine and coastal areas. High value species, such as bangus, siganid, seaweeds, oysters, mussels, red snappers, groupers, among others, can be grown through this method.
House Bill No 5531, or the National Mariculture Programme bill, pushes for the legislated establishment of the NMP, which is a current programme being implemented at scale by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
“Through this bill, the programme shall be expanded throughout the Philippines in areas that are identified as conducive for mariculture,” Lee said.
If passed, the government would be mandated to adopt the ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management to ensure that the marine environment remains conducive to sustainable fisheries, species management and mariculture investment.
The government would also be tasked with minimising the adverse effects of mariculture in view of the multiple uses of marine and coastal areas.
The government would also be required to improve the viability of mariculture by developing the technical skills of fishermen throughout the production, harvesting, processing, storage and transport stages in the value chain; providing appropriate infrastructure and equipment for post-harvest technology; and ensuring easy access to finance.
Local government units shall supervise the establishment of mariculture parks and zones in duly designated areas located municipal waters.
Mariculture parks are areas in the sea that are similar to industrial parks or estates on land where the appropriate infrastructure such as roads, other facilities and support services are provided to attract entrepreneurs and investors.
In mariculture parks, the infrastructure provided are a mooring (anchoring) system for floating fish cages, fish landings and cold storage, among others; and support services for processing, transport and marketing.
In pushing for the bill's passage, Lee emphasised the need for government to continue looking for ways to expand its food production capabilities in the face of its increasing vulnerability to climate change.
“We are among the most vulnerable countries in the world. Thus, our food security is at serious risk. If we do not intensify our efforts in looking for solutions to improve our food production, hunger will prevail in our country,” Lee said.
“Mariculture is a good solution towards this goal. If properly developed, all of us will be winners,” he added.