THE fisheries industry continued its lobbying for the establishment of a Department of Fisheries, saying a dedicated Cabinet-level office will better promote the sector’s development.

“Once and for all tinatawag namin ang pansin ng ating presidente, Rodrigo (R.) Duterte na ito ay isang campaign promise (we are calling the attention of our President Rodrigo R. Duterte, because this was his campaign promise),” Joseph Martin H. Borromeo, board member of the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI), said at a news conference Tuesday in Quezon City.

Mr. Borromeo said a bill was submitted to the House of Representatives on Nov. 4 for the creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR), which will separate the duties of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources from the Department of Agriculture (DA) to give the sector more focused attention.

“Creating a department is not a cost, and it will not add to the bureaucracy of the government. Creating a department will simply fix the institutional failure happening to BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) kasi bureau sya. Aayusin lang natin from a bureau to a department (because it’s a bureau. We will just restructure it to a department),” he added.

Restituto Del Rosario, council member from the National Anti-Poverty Commission-Artisanal Fisherfolk Sectoral Council (NAPC-AFC), said the creation of the department will improve the industry’s representation in the government and help fishing communities rise from poverty.

Nagpipilit kaming magkaroon ng departamento para may prumoteksyon sa mga mangingisda at maaring ito rin yung pag-asa naming para mabawasan ng kaunti yung kahirapan sa amin (We are insisting on a department to better protect fishermen and it could be our best hope for reducing poverty),” he said.

BFAR’s conversion to a department would mean a bigger budget to support the sector. In 2019, BFAR was given about P5.758 billion from DA total budget of P47.293 billion. The agency has said that it needs P60 billion to effectively implement its programs.

Mr. Borromeo said that he hopes the legislation will pass before the government steps down in 2022.

“We are very confident… Alam naman ng kongreso na kailangan (The Congress knows this is needed),” he said. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang