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Resource Development Bill Gets Green Light

THE PHILIPPINES - Two house committees have approved a bill seeking the development of marine and fisheries resources.

The unnumbered substitute bill to the consolidated House Bills 606, 1803 and 4240, authored by Reps. Alfredo D. Marañon III (2nd district, Negros Occidental), Junie E. Cua (Quirino) and Lorenzo R. Tañada III (4th district, Quezon), respectively, which would set up marine protected areas in all coastal municipalities and cities, was approved by the House committee on aquaculture and fisheries resources and committee on appropriations.

Separate bills filed by Reps. Marcelino R. Teodoro (1st district, Marikina City) and Nur G. Jaafar (Tawi-Tawi) were also incorporated to the approved version.

Malcolm I. Sarmiento, Jr., director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, told BusinessWorld yesterday the bill’s passage would be good as long as there is a balance between food security and efforts to conserve and preserve the environment.

"[Through the bill], fishing will not be allowed in areas where sanctuaries will be declared to allow resources to recover. This is good as long as it is done in such a way that food security will not be undermined," he said.

Mr. Sarmiento said the establishment of a marine protected area would affect production in the short term, but this would be compensated by the increase in stocks in the long run.

"For this year we have estimated a 6 to 7 per cent overall fisheries growth. Over one million tons of fish come from coastal municipalities and we expect that, [with the passage of the bill] a fraction of it would be lost, at least for the first few years of the proposed law’s implementation," he said.

According to BusinessWorld, Mr. Marañon, also chairman of the committee on aquaculture and fisheries resources, said the bill would promote a marine-based economy.

"We could be the center of the fishing industry in Asia, with the country’s aquatic territory exceeding 220 million hectares, which is more than seven times its land territory at only 30 million hectares," he said in a statement.

Mr. Teodoro said the measure seeks to encourage more investments to the fisheries industry.

Mr. Tañada said the diverse coral reef species need protection.

"Food security, creation of rural livelihood and employment and the preservation and enhancement of the environment remain a top priority even as economic and financial policy reforms continue to be instituted to mitigate the global economic slowdown," Speaker Prospero C. Nograles said in a separate statement.

Under the bill, all coastal municipalities and cities will be required to establish at least one marine protected area within municipal waters, covering a minimum total area of 10 hectares, in accordance with an integrated community-based conservation program and coastal resource management plan.

the Fish Site Editor

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