THE fisheries regulator said he hopes to match or top the sector’s first quarter growth rate of 0.97% over the course of 2019.

“We would rather (keep pace) or improve… Positive at the end of 2018, and then another positive in the second quarter sana (I hope),” Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director Eduardo B. Gongona told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Quezon City.

The first-quarter growth reversed a 4.58% year-earlier contraction. The sector also accounted for 13.45% of total agricultural output value in the period.

In the third quarter, he expects a boost from the aquaculture harvest with the sector currently seeding ponds with fingerlings.

He also said that the bureau has submitted a proposal to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to establish more fish cages. Starting this year and running to 2020, 300 fish cages will be allocated to each region, but Mr. Gongona said that 25,000 fish cages are currently available.

Early this month, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that the Department of Finance has approved the use of at least P3 billion of the P4-billion Agricultural Enhancement Fund (ACEF) to expand fish farming. Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) will disburse the funds in the form of loans.

Under the proposal to be submitted by the 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 potential loan applicants. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang