DAVAO CITY — The business sector in Caraga region has expressed alarm over the continued decline of the fish catch and the denudation of forests in the region, one of the richest in natural resources but with the second-lowest contribution to the country’s economy.
In a resolution submitted to the recent Mindanao Business Conference (MinBizCon), the region’s businesses said government action is required, particularly from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
BFAR has to “strictly enforce policies against smuggling of high-value marine products in the ports and to promote the use of advanced technologies to support the development of Caraga’s high-value marine products,” according to the resolution.
The various business chambers in the region also want BFAR to “conduct research on the Caraga waters, particularly the decreasing harvest of tuna.”
Citing Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, they said the volume of fish caught in 2017 was just about 10% of 1989 levels. PSA reported that this is one of the main contributors to poverty incidence.
As of the 2015 census, 30.8% of the nearly 2.6 million population was classified as poor.
Caraga’s gross regional domestic product growth rate in 2017 improved to 4.3% from 2% in 2016, but its contribution to the Philippine’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remained flat at 1.2% in those two years.
In 2017, the region’s GDP contribution was the second-lowest, trailing only the 0.6% of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
On forestry, the business sector in the region said illegal logging continues to thrive and government help is necessary to plant fast-growing species for reforestation.
Caraga, based on the Department of Trade and Industry’s profile, is “noted for its wood-based economy, its extensive water resources and its rich mineral deposits such as iron, gold, silver, nickel, chromite, manganese, and copper.”
Former President Benigno S.C. Aquino III’s Executive Order 23 in 2011, which contains a moratorium on logging, officially remains in effect. The implementation of the moratorium and regulation of sawmills using legally sourced timber is the DENR’s responsibility.
“Smuggling of tuna and illegal logging have become so rampant that (the Caraga business sector) wants government to strengthen the implementation of the laws,” said Virgilio F. Agunod, president of the Tagum City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which hosted MinBizCon.
The Caraga resolution, along with several others endorsed by the MinBizCon, was submitted to Secretary Abul Khayr D. Alonto, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority. — Carmelito Q. Francisco