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Proposed fisheries dep’t budget estimated at P2B

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A SEPARATE fisheries department will cost about P2 billion a year to run if the budgets of the agencies currently dealing with fisheries are combined, a former industry regulator said.

In a virtual briefing Monday, Asis G. Perez, convenor of advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan, said a proposed Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will also ensure centralize the management of fisheries, benefiting coastal communities that depend on it for livelihood.

“The idea to combine all agencies under one roof is to integrate their functions and for better management,” Mr. Perez, a former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) national director, said.

He said agencies currently overseeing the sector can be combined and will not require much more funding because they have their own buildings and personnel.

These agencies include BFAR, the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority, and the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute.

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“Right now, our estimate is around P2 billion. If you combine all the budgets of these agencies, plus with some additional funding, I think that is enough to run a department,” Mr. Perez said.

Asked if the proposed fisheries department will create additional bureaucracy, Mr. Perez said the new department will only need around 500 new personnel.

“We believe that the benefit will outweigh the fear that there will be additional bureaucracy. You do not need to add a lot of new personnel. It only needs mass consolidation and additional employees in areas that are lacking manpower,” Mr. Perez said.

Mr. Perez proposed dedicated bureaus for fisheries production, protection and enforcement, postharvest and marketing, and international affairs.

According to Mr. Perez, various bills have been filed in the House of Representatives and the Senate for the creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, but these have not gained traction.

“While it is not going to be easy, we are optimistic that the bill for its creation will be passed before the end of President Duterte’s term,” Mr. Perez said.

BFAR is currently attached to the Department of Agriculture.

In the third quarter, the value of production of the fisheries sub-sector rose 1.9% year on year and accounted for 15.8% of total agricultural output, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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