THE World Bank estimated that its board will decide by July 2021 on a $200-million  loan sought by the Philippine government to develop the fisheries sector.

According to a World Bank document obtained by BusinessWorld, the government applied for the loan to support the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ fisheries and coastal resiliency project.

“The proposed development objective of the project is to improve management of coastal fishery resources, enhance the value of fisheries production and increase fisheries-derived incomes within coastal communities, in selected fishery management areas,” according to the document.

Last month, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the government tapped the World Bank for a loan to support the modernization of the fisheries industry. The agency hopes to roll out the project by October 2021.

The World Bank said Philipine natural capital is about 18% of its total capital, excluding coastal and marine natural resources, which is higher than the average for developing economies in East Asia and the Pacific.

“Natural capital makes a significant contribution to the Philippines’ wealth, but underperformance of related sectors leaves considerable unrealized potential for increasing its economic contribution… Fisheries and tourism have lost market share in comparison to regional competitors,” the bank said.

It said the Philippines remains among the most affected by natural hazards, suffering P233 billion in annual asset losses from typhoons and earthquakes.

“Projections suggest a potential reduction of coastal GDP (gross domestic product) of up to 52.3% due to intensified storm surges by 2100 and 45% of wetlands will be at risk,” it added.

It said the Philippines also has a “large infrastructure deficit” especially in coastal areas, ranking 96th in quality of infrastructure out of 141 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Index.

It said “grey infrastructure is prevalent” on the coastlines of the country with seawalls used as protection from erosion, storm surges and coastal flooding.

“However, efficacy and effectiveness of the coastal protection measures currently used is uncertain as many of the observed investments are of small scale and lack continuity along the coastline,” the bank said.

Modernizing the fisheries sector will require “the establishment of science-based and ecologically sound stock management systems,” expanding sustainable aquaculture production, and improving value retention in the sector, according to the bank.

It said around 20-40% of total fish caught and farmed in the country is lost yearly, on top of the loss in quality and value due to poor post-harvest practices.

It said the comprehensive plan for post-harvest, marketing and ancillary industries that covers 2018-2022 suggests adoption of “fish processing and handling infrastructure; competitive and modern support for inputs to fisheries production; harmonization of market information systems; enhancement of access to credit and insurance; and branding and promotion of Philippines’ seafood.”

“Global demand for high-quality and sustainable seafood continues to grow, but given the exhaustion of fish stocks, the Philippines will need to capture more value from its existing production to benefit,” it added. — Beatrice M. Laforga