SENATE PRESIDENT Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto on Tuesday said he intends to file a bill creating a department of fisheries and aquaculture that would be focused on addressing the high prices of fish.
Mr. Recto made the statement in reaction to the 6.7% October inflation reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) also on Tuesday.
In his text message to reporters, he said Congress will pass rice tariffication legislation within the year to help ease inflation. However, he noted that all duties from the rice tariffs must be used to help farmers increase their productivity.
The rice tariffication bill seeks to liberalize rice importation while installing a tariff regime for the commodity. The Senate version of the bill remains pending on second reading while its counterpart version in the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading on Aug. 14.
Over the longer term, the Senate leader proposed the creation of the fisheries department to help ease the work of the Agriculture Secretary. Currently fisheries are handled by a bureau under the Department of Agriculture.
“In the long-term, I am proposing to create a department of fisheries and aquaculture to help address the high price of fish,” he said.
“It makes sense to have a secretary of agriculture to oversee 10 (million) hectare of agricultural land and a (secretary) of fisheries to oversee 250 (million) hectares of fisheries EEZ (exclusive economic zone). (I) will be filling a bill,” he added.
Similar measures have been filed in the Senate, introduced by Senators Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, Loren B. Legarda, Francis N. Pangilinan, and then-senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano. The bills remained pending in the committee of agriculture and food, chaired by Senator Cynthia A. Villar.
Mr. Recto, who was also former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary, also said that inflation is expected to decline soon in line with rice and oil prices. However, he noted that oil prices are volatile and may increase due to pressure exerted by the United States on China, India and other countries to stop importing oil from Iran. — Camille A. Aguinaldo