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Tañada: “Save our galunggong, pass the Marine Protected Areas Bill!”

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Asis Perez recently confirmed the declining supply of galunggong or round scad in the country.  This has prompted canneries, plants and even industrial buyers like restaurants to import what used to be viewed as the poor man’s fish.

In recent turn of events, the supply of imported galunggong has penetrated local wet markets. Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” R. Tañada III said, “for an archipelagic country to end up importing galunggong, the Filipino’s staple dish, is indeed lamentable.”

BFAR has admitted that the country is showing signs of overfishing as fish catch continue to plunge. Other problems hounding the fisheries sector include loss of marine biodiversity, loss of revenues and benefits from fisheries and coastal resources, inequitable distribution of benefits from fisheries and coastal resource uses, population growth, inconsistent policies and programs for sustainable fisheries, and lack of a constituency for sustainable fisheries.

House Bill 57 entitled “Marine and Coastal Resources Protection Act of 2011” mandates coastal cities and municipalities to establish at least ten hectares of  marine protected areas (MPA) to address the problems of the country’s fisheries sector.  However, if municipal waters is 15 hectares or less, MPA shall comprise at least 15 percent of the area.

Deputy Speaker Tañada furthered that, “House Bill 57 sets aside a portion of each municipal waters area for community-based protection which could be in the form of marine parks where conservation-oriented recreation, education and research are emphasized, reserves where access and uses are regulated and controlled, or a sanctuary where a “no take” policy is imposed.”

“Studies have shown that even within three months after the establishment of a marine sanctuary, fish stocks are replenished and a marked increase in fish catch is seen,” Tañada said.

Congress has already passed it on Third Reading on 31 May 2011 and transmitted it to the Senate on 2 June 2011.

“The ball has been with the Senate since last year.  This bill is just but part and parcel of what should be a cohesive policy mix to address the problems of the fisheries sector.  I just hope they act quickly on the matter,” Tañada said.#