THE Department of Finance (DoF) has approved the use of at least P3 billion for the development of fish farming, tapping most of the loan fund worth P4 billion from the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF).

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a social media post Monday that Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III confirmed his support during the Cabinet’s visit to Japan.

Mr. Dominguez also chairs Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK), which will disburse the loans. Fish farming is capital-intensive but profitable, with operators earning up to 100% on their investment.

Under the proposal to be submitted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), individual operators will be allowed to borrow up to P1 million, while cooperatives and associations can tap up to P5 million.

The BFAR and the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) will also form loan facilitation teams to help possible loan applicants.

“The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Regional Directors have been tasked to submit proposals for the establishment of at least 300 large fish cages per region estimated to cost P1-M, including Bangus (milkfish) fingerlings, feeds and operational costs for five to six months until harvest,” Mr. Piñol said.

Aside from bangus, fish farmers also seed the cages with danggit (rabbitfish) and kitang (spotted scat) fingerlings, which are bottom-dwellers that eat feed not consumed by bangus.

Through this method, operators harvest twice a year and are expected to increase production of bangus by 120,000 metric tons (MT) every year with a market value of P12 billion. This does not include the additional income from harvest of danggit and kitang, Mr. Piñol said.

The ACEF is funded via tariffs collected from imported agricultural products. It now has about P5 billion.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on May 8 that fisheries production, which accounted for 13.45% of total farm output value, grew 0.9% year-on-year to 1.01 million metric tons (MMT) during the first quarter of 2019. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang