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Senator Chiz Backs Formation of a Department of Fisheries

PHILIPPINES - Senator Chiz Escudero said he is supporting calls for the creation of a Department of Fisheries.

Every department should have a field of expertise. Fishing is one of our main sources of income that can compete with the exports of other countries. We should focus on this instead of just focusing on imports, Mr Escudero said during a recent visit to General Santos City for the 14th Tuna Festival.

The fisheries subsector accounted for 18.81 per cent of the countrys total agricultural output. Production reached 5.15 million metric tons in 2010 valued at P221.05 billion.

The Soccsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. in Southern Mindanao wants the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources upgraded into a separate department.

BFAR is an agency under the Department of Agriculture.

But Mr Escudero said any move to create a new department will have to wait since the Aquino administration is undertaking a rationalisation programme to streamline the government bureaucracy.

The creation of a Department of Fisheries is currently being pushed in Congress but the current thrust of President Aquinos administration is to minimize the bureaucracy and red tape, and the only department the President has agreed to be created is the Department of Housing, Mr Escudero said.

We have been spending a lot in various government agencies that sometimes do not really function at all. Maybe after we have rationalized all government agencies, he added.

The proposed bill for the creation of a Department of Fisheries is still pending with the House of Representatives, and the Senate has yet to tackle the issue. But Mr Escudero vowed to support the departments creation if the proposed measure reaches the Senate.

According to the DAs Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, the countrys fisheries subsector continued to register a decline in production.

Downtrends in production were observed for marine and inland fisheries as well as aquaculture. Gross receipts for fisheries amounted to P117.4 billion at current prices. This represented an increase of 3.07 per cent from last years level.

At the same time, Escudero reiterated his support for the countrys tuna industry.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the tuna industry is one of our priorities. I want to make ensure that the countrys tuna industry gets full support and at the same time ensure that production is sustainable, the senator said.

Tuna was the countrys top fisheries export in 2010, earning P15.12 billion.

Mr Escudero pledged continued support for the tuna industry, as well as the fisheries subsector of the countrys agricultural sector.

My late father (Rep. Salvador Escudero) was a former Agriculture secretary under two presidents. Agriculture is near and dear to me, the senator added.

Lucy Towers

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