THE aquaculture industry said it needs longer leases to earn an adequate return for developing fishponds out of mangrove areas.

“One of the problems is that fishponds are still tenurial under the fishpond lease agreement (FLA). I think there are around 60,000 hectares of fishponds under the FLA that are about to expire,” according to David B. Villaluz, chairman of the Philippine Association of Fish Producers, Inc., who was speaking at a virtual forum.

An FLA is a 25-year contract issued by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), as authorized by Fisheries Administrative Order No. 197-1, to individuals or entities to use mangrove areas for fishpond development.

The agreement may be renewed for another 25 years. After, the site will revert to fisherfolk cooperatives or reverted back to its mangrove state.

According to Mr. Villaluz, the 50-year cap on FLAs does not allow fishpond operators adequate opportunity to earn back their investment.

“Our suggestion is if we can renew for another 25 years (beyond the 50th year) to redevelop fishponds,” he said.

Christopher Co, vice-president of Oversea Feeds Corp., said a more rational program was needed to harmonize hatchery output with aquaculture demand.

“They have to be more logical in their rules on the hatchery side because aquaculture requires a domestication program (that allows for) the time needed for growth,” he said.

“Let’s review all these rules (with the focus on the needs of) the farmer (and the) hatchery rather than the point of view of the politicians who crafted the law,” he added.

Dennis F. Calvan, representative of Pangingisda Natin Gawing Tama, urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to release guidelines for the turnover of abandoned fishponds.

“We are (turning a blind eye to) what is happening to those fishponds that were turned over by the BFAR to DENR for mangrove reforestation,” he said.

In 2022, aquaculture accounted for 54.1% of fisheries output, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera