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Home arrow News arrow House committee okays funding for bill on mariculture program
House committee okays funding for bill on mariculture program
Thursday, 08 February 2018

The House Committee on Appropriations has approved the funding requirement of a bill that seeks to create a National Mariculture Program that will involve marine fisheries and aquaculture technology and research, financial and marketing assistance, and other services for the benefit of fisherfolk and local communities.

The committee, chaired by Davao representative Karlo Alexei Nograles, amended Section 13 of the substitute bill in order to include the amount needed to implement the program in the budgets of concerned department or agencies in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).

For local government units (LGUs), program implementation shall be funded from their internal revenue allotments and other internally generated funds.

The bill defines mariculture as "an integrated branch of aquaculture designed to produce fish through sea cages, long lines and other culture structures in marine and coastal area to grow high-value species. This includes bangus, siganid, seaweeds, oysters, and mussels, among others."

The substitute bill is principally authored by Batangas representative Vilma Santos-Recto and party-list representative Michael Romero of One Patriotic Coalition of Marginalized Nationals. It is currently pending with the House Committee on Aquaculture and Fisheries Resources.

In the bill, a P500 million initial fund is sought "to effectively carry out the provisions of this Act during the first year of implementation."

The national mariculture program will provide a blueprint for the development of mariculture in the country so as to increase fish production, uplift the lives of fisherfolk, and attain food security, said Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe, also an author of the bill.

Key provisions of the bill include establishing mariculture parks and zones in duly designated areas.

The province, city, or municipality shall enter into lease agreements with fisherfolk cooperatives and private investors for a period of 10 years, and renewable for another 10.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) shall provide a ceiling for rents to locators to ensure affordability to ordinary fisherfolk and viability of continued operations. In granting lease agreements, LGUs shall give preference to local fisherfolk.

Grant of mariculture zone areas shall be based on mooring spaces to ensure that usage of area for sea cages, long lines, and other culture structures is limited to the granted space.

Moreover, LGUs or investors shall establish support infrastructures such as fish hatcheries, cold storage facilities, floating guardhouses, onshore feed warehouse, net mending and drying shed, and a pier.

In addition, socioeconomic infrastructure shall be placed to ensure reliable access, cost-effective distance, and economic feasibility of the mariculture park and zone.

A Maritime Zone Advisory Council shall be created to operate, administer, manage, and develop the mariculture areas, and register and regulate the enterprises within.

To guarantee fish safety and control diseases, the advisory council shall provide for a water monitoring system to determine the presence of marine litter, agricultural run-off, and contaminants in the mariculture parks.

The bill further mandates the Department of Agriculture (DA) to provide technical, training, and give marketing support to LGUs, fisherfolk cooperatives and associations, and non-government organizations.

The inter-governmental organization Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center-Aquaculture Department shall facilitate the transfer of the latest aquaculture technologies, assist in the DA's training programs, and promote adoption of good aquaculture practices.

The bill welcomes the private sector as economic partners, and encourages private individual investors and enterprises to actively participate in creating, using, and managing mariculture systems.

Moreover, loan assistance to qualified fisherfolk organizations for expenses such as fish cage construction shall be provided by the Land Bank of the Philippines.

BFAR has expressed its support for the bill, noting it is aligned with one of the strategies put forward by the sector in its Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan.