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Protect, conserve fishery resources
AS AN island nation, the Philippines necessarily depends on its fishery resources for its food. Fish used to be among the cheapest sources of protein for Filipinos but now, some fish products are even more expensive than pork or chicken.
Constituting the country’s territorial waters is a 220-million hectare fishing ground, of which 193.4 million hectares are oceanic waters and 26.6 million hectares are in the Exclusive Economic Zone. Within it are 38,000 hectares of lush mangrove cover and 810,000 square kilometers of coral reefs, home to mangroves, coral reefs, and fish species. The utilization and development of these marine and fishery resources had been constrained by inadequate laws and the government’s lack of focused attention.
In 1975, all laws and decrees affecting fisheries were revised and consolidated under Presidential Decree No. 704. However, the country’s fishery resources have been degraded, if not completely destroyed, by pollution, illegal fishing, and by the use of fishing methods which irreversibly harm natural marine and fresh water habitats. Among the major causes of degradation, overfishing deserves the most attention. This overexploitation of traditional fishing grounds inevitably resulted to a decline in their productivity.
It is in this light that proposals creating a Department of Fisheries may be pursued. The goal should be to protect and conserve the country’s fishery and aquatic resources within sustainable limits for the exclusive enjoyment of Filipino citizens, to accelerate the integrated development of the fishery industry, and to protect the rights of small and subsistence fisherfolk and fish workers to preferential use of such resources.
Increasing national productivity is an urgent matter if we are to industrialize by the turn of the century. But development should not be at the expense of rapidly depleting our marine resources. Through a focused Department of Fisheries, we can ensure sufficient food supply to millions of Filipinos through the development of the vast potentials of Philippine fisheries.