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Philippine Fisheries Dynamics: Market Shifts, Aquaculture Update, Sovereignty Concerns, Solar Projects, and Project LEAD

Explore Philippine fisheries’ evolving landscape, influenced by market shifts, aquaculture growth, sovereignty issues amid escalating tensions over the West Philippine Sea,, floating solar project, and the Project LEAD of DOST-PCAARRD.

An increase in Fish Unloaded in Ports Drives Down Retail Prices

According to the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the average retail price of tilapia dropped by 1.81%, from Php 167.75 per kilogram (kg) in January to Php 164.72 per kg in May. Similarly, the retail price of milkfish decreased by 2.81%, from Php 215.60 per kg in January to Php 209.55 per kg in May. Additionally, the retail price of round scad /galunggong fell by 7.28%, from Php 207.50 per kg in January to Php 192.39 per kg in May. The decrease in retail prices can be attributed to the 13% year-on-year increase in fish unloaded at regional fish ports (RFPs) during the first quarter of 2024, the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) reported on June 20, 2024. 

A total of 134,746.84 metric tons (MT) were unloaded, up from the 118,419.49 MT recorded in the same period last year. The PFDA attributed the increase to the end of the closed fishing season, imposed by Republic Act (RA) No. 8550, or the Fisheries Code, to help repopulate certain fish species. This season typically concludes in the first two months of the year and affects provinces such as Northern Palawan, Ilocos, Negros Occidental, Capiz, and Cebu.

Global Aquaculture Surpasses Wild Fishing

The  United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report titled “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2024,” released in June, highlighted that the total global volume of fish, shrimp, clams, and other aquatic animals that are harvested by farming reached 94.4 million tons (T) in 2022 from 91.1 million T in 2021, topping the amount fished in the wild from the world’s waters for the first time, which dropped from 91.6 million T in 2021 to 91 million T in 2022. This shift indicates a growing reliance on aquaculture, impacting traditional fishing communities. The report mentioned that the milestone had been expected, as the hauls from fisheries have largely stagnated over the last three decades mainly because of limits in nature. In the Philippines, where many fishermen depend on wild catches for their livelihood, this trend could lead to economic challenges and a need for adaptation to aquaculture practices.

FAO reports that a few countries dominate the global aquaculture industry. Ten nations, namely, China, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Philippines, South Korea, Norway, Egypt, and Chile, accounted for over 89.8% of global aquaculture production. Asia alone contributed more than 90% of the total aquaculture production of aquatic animals. As a key player in this sector, the Philippines could see positive market implications, including potential growth in export opportunities and improved food security. However, the shift towards aquaculture necessitates investments in infrastructure and training for local fishermen to transition smoothly and sustainably.

Tensions Rise Over the West Philippine Sea

The West  Philippine Sea is one of the major sources of fish catch output in the Philippines. On June 16, 2024, the Filipino fishermen’s group Tropical Fish Gatherer Association expressed their concerns over the threat of the policy that was announced by China that allows its coast guard to detain “foreign trespassers” in the Panatag Shoal, an area within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea. Mr. Joffrey Elad, president of the fishermen’s group, called for the assistance of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to escort their group while fishing. 

With this, the PCG reinforced its presence by deploying two vessels in response to the call made by Mr. Elad. These are the BRP Sindangan and BRP Malapascua, which helped increase the number of Filipino fishing boats in the Scarborough Shoal from 3 to 10 boats, demonstrating the growing confidence among fishermen. The Philippine government also took a firm stance against China’s actions, with House Speaker Martin Romualdez urging the Philippine Navy and PCG to ensure the safety of Filipino fishermen and uphold the nation’s sovereignty. 

On June 19, 2024, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported that the unilateral declaration by China would not significantly impact fish production in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) despite China’s threats. BFAR spokesman Nazario C. Briguera reported that the Philippines does not recognize China’s claim and that Filipino fishermen will continue their activities in the WPS as part of the country’s EEZ. 

Moreover, the House Committee on Aquaculture and Fisheries Resources, in collaboration with BFAR, emphasized the need for continued support and security for the 385,000 fishermen dependent on the WPS. BFAR allocated Php 1.8 billion in 2024 for WPS-related programs, including initiatives to combat illegal fishing and conserve marine resources, ensuring Filipino fishermen can continue their activities in the country’s EEZ. This support aims to mitigate the adverse effects on the fishing industry and provide a stable fish supply in the local markets while enhancing the security of the fishermen and the nation.

Fishermen’s Livelihoods at Risk from Floating Solar Project

In the case of aquaculture, the national fishermen’s group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) raised concerns about the potential impact of a planned floating solar power project by the NKS Energy Utilities and SunAsia Energy on Laguna de Bay funded by the Blueleaf Energy Philippines. Pamalakaya-Bay president Alejandro Alcones noted that the project, expected to cover 2,000 hectares in the cities of Calamba, Cabuyao, and Santa Rosa, as well as the towns of Bay and Victoria, might affect the livelihoods of 10,000 fishermen and aquaculture operators. The solar panels could obstruct fishing routes and possibly demolish makeshift docks, potentially disrupting daily fishing activities and reducing fish catches and aquaculture yields. While Pamalakaya recognizes the importance of transitioning to renewable energy, they emphasize the need to consider the socio-economic rights of the fishing community.

Ecotourism in Laguna de Bay

The DOST-PCAARRD funded a project implemented by the UPLB School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM)’s Ecosystem Services and Environmental Policy (ESEP) led by Dr. Rico Ancog titled Laguna Lake Ecotourism Advocacy for Development or Project LEAD. The project aims to promote ecotourism as a sustainable development solution for Laguna de Bay’s resource use and management. 

By integrating ecotourism with sustainable practices, the project seeks to enhance the resilience of local communities and protect natural resources. Through promoting ecotourism, fishermen can participate in and benefit from activities such as guided fishing tours, boat rentals, and ecotourism-related hospitality services. This can provide an alternative livelihood, especially when fishing yields are low. Additionally, ecotourism initiatives often include environmental conservation efforts, which can lead to healthier fish populations and more sustainable fishing practices.

References: Adonis, M.J. (2024, June 21). SunAsia, Blueleaf investing $1.7B in floating solar project on Laguna Lake. Philippine Inquirer. Retrieved June 28, 2024 from https://business.inquirer.net/400624/sunasia-blueleaf-investing-1-7b-in-floating-solar-project-on-laguna-lake

Artates, A.J.O. (2024, March 19). Policy Forum Advances S&T-Based Resource Use and Management for Laguna de Bay. DOST-PCAARRD. Retrieved June 27, 2024 from https://www.pcaarrd.dost.gov.ph/index.php/quick-information-dispatch-qid-articles/policy-forum-advances-s-t-based-resource-use-and-management-for-laguna-de-bay?highlight=WyJsYWd1bmEiLCJkZSIsImJheSJd

Associated Press. (2024, June 18). The UN says more aquatic animals were farmed than fished in 2022. That’s the first time in history. Manila Bulletin. Retrieved June 18, 2024 from https://mb.com.ph/2024/6/8/the-un-says-more-aquatic-animals-were-farmed-than-fished-in-2022-that-s-the-first-time-in-history

Banayos, R. (2023, February 23). Project LEAD puts the spotlight on ecotourism in Laguna de Bay at UPLB Feb Fair. Los Banos Times. Retrieved June 27, 2024 from https://lbtimes.ph/2023/02/23/project-lead-puts-the-spotlight-on-ecotourism-in-laguna-de-bay-at-uplb-feb-fair/

Cabuenas, J.V. (2024, June 16). Pinoy fishermen want PH Coast Guard security in Bajo de Masinloc. GMA Integrated News. Retrieved June 18, 2024 from https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/topstories/nation/910253/pinoy-fishermen-want-ph-coast-guard-security-in-bajo-de-masinloc/story/

Cantos, J. (2024, June 18). Mga mangingisda sa West Philipline Sea, protektahan – Romualdez. Philippine Star. Retrieved June 18, 2024 from https://www.philstar.com/pilipino-star-ngayon/bansa/2024/06/18/2363606/mga-mangingisda-sa-west-philipline-sea-protektahan-romualdez

Halili, A. (2024, June 18). Fish production not seen affected by China threat to detain ‘trespassers’. Business World. Retrieved June 18, 2024 from https://www.bworldonline.com/economy/2024/06/18/602707/fish-production-not-seen-affected-by-china-threat-to-detain-trespassers/

Halili, A. (2024, June 20). Catch landed at fishports up 13% in Q1. Business World. Retrieved June 20, 2024 from https://www.bworldonline.com/economy/2024/05/14/595099/catch-landed-at-fishports-up-13-in-q1/

Laqui, I. (2024, June 16). Floating solar project to affect over 800 fishers in Laguna de Bay — group. Philippine Star. Retrieved June 18, 2024 from https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2024/06/16/2363324/floating-solar-project-affect-over-800-fishers-laguna-de-bay-group

Maluntag, M. (2024, June 19). Kamara, BFAR sanib-pwersa sa suporta at proteksyon ng mga mangingisdang Pinoy sa WPS. Remate Online News. Retrieved June 20, 2024 from https://remate.ph/kamara-bfar-sanib-pwersa-sa-suporta-at-proteksyon-ng-mga-mangingisdang-pinoy-sa-wps/

Ombay, G. (2024, June 18). PCG: PH fishing boats increasing in Bajo de Masinloc despite China’s ‘no trespass’ rule. GMA Integrated News. Retrieved June 18, 2024 from https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/topstories/nation/910369/pcg-bajo-de-masinloc-scarborough-shoal-china/story/

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