A FOOD security advocacy called on the incoming Marcos administration to certify as urgent a measure establishing the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR), billing such a move as in aid of containing rising food prices and reverse faltering productivity.

In a virtual briefing on Monday, Tugon Kabuhayan Convenor Roberto A. Ballon said he is asking the next government to make a major effort towards achieving “seafood security.”

“Everyone is in agreement, the municipal, commercial, business, aquaculture, post-harvest (subsectors), that a DFAR is needed. We want an office with a desk. Just build DFAR; there will be seafood security,” Mr. Ballon, a Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient, said.

President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. will be sworn into office on June 30.

Asis G. Perez, also a Tugon Kabuhayan convenor, said that the administrative infrastructure for such a department is already in place, in the form of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

He estimated the cost of establishing the DFAR at P12 billion. The BFAR had a budget of P4.57 billion in 2022.

“No DFAR bill in previous Congresses have reached second reading,” Mr. Perez said, arguing that such a department will have broader reach than the DA, the BFAR’s parent department.

“The DA is organized only at the regional level, while the BFAR reaches into the provinces,” Mr. Perez, a former BFAR director, said.    

Mr. Perez, who is a former BFAR director, said a DFAR would have to serve as regulator and promoter of industry development.

“Both the developmental aspect and also the regulatory aspect will have to be put into one. It should be synchronized,” Mr. Perez said.

“With the fifth largest coastline in the world, we have a total of 233 million hectares of water resources, which is 7.7 times bigger than the country’s land area. We need to have a separate DFAR to manage it,” he added. 

The Philippine Statistics Authority estimated the value of fisheries production at constant 2018 prices to have contracted 5.8% in the first quarter. It accounted for 12.9% of overall Philippine agricultural output. Overall agricultural production of the Philippines dropped 0.3% during the period. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave