Thursday, May 1, 2008


Yesterday, the cost of galunggong, (our index
fish), rose to more than Php102 pesos per kilo at
wet markets in the National Capital Region,
deepening our state of confusion and helplessness.
Is there also a shortage of fish, aside from that of
rice and other basic food stuff, or, is it a shortage
of pesos to buy food? Heads of various government
agencies have always argued that it is cheaper for us
to import food products, rice included, rather than
produce. What if we can no longer afford to buy what
we need? Don
Is there a shortage of fish ? According to the
Kilusang Mangingisda (KM), a coalition of fourteen
national fisher federations, the Comprehensive
National Fishery Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP) ,
prepared jointly by the government and stakeholders
in the domestic fisheries sector, reveal that in 2005,
there was indeed a fish deficit of 205,159 metric
tons which will increase to an estimated 585,000
metric tons by 2025. The average yearly fish deficit
is 403,000 metric tons. Is something being done to
mitigate the inevitable?
The Kilusang Mangingisda (KM) chairman, Bonifacio
Federizo, is of the opinion that the sorry state of
our fisher folk and the fishing industry is largely
due to the destruction and loss of once protected
mangrove areas. Because of that, millions of Filipinos
living in coastal communities who once benefited from
these natural marine nurseries and coastal barriers
have become vulnerable to natural disasters that
include dwindling fish harvests. Mr. Federizo lays
the blame at the doorsteps of the Asian Development
Bank (ADB) and other international finance
institutions (IFIs) for funding environmentally
destructive aquaculture from 1970’s to the 1990.

Apparently, during the above-mentioned period, the ADB
and IFIs offered billions of dollars in loans and
grants to increase fisheries production and trade,
specially of high-value species like tuna and shrimp.
Mr. Bonifacio Federizo, argues that the expansion “of
destructive aquaculture led to a massive loss of
mangrove areas that ultimately led to decreasing
fishery stocks and to the present deficit in the
supply of food fish in the country…Between 1985 and
1989, external assistance given to huge aquaculture
complexes in developing countries averaged to US$
500 million a year,” Mr. Federizo, cited data from the
Food and Aquaculture Organization (FAO) of the United

According to the same source, from 1989 to 1995, the
ADB and the World Bank were the prime supporters of
aquaculture in Asia , accounting for sixty- nine
percent of total foreign funding supporting forty
percent of total projects. The KM leaders say that as
the ADB and World Bank funds fueled the expansion of
intensive aquaculture they unleashed an environmental
catastrophe as mangroves were destroyed to give way
to the large-scale production of shrimp and other
species for both export and major domestic markets,
“Mangrove losses in Southeast Asia was mind-boggling.
“ said Mr. Federizo, “ In Thailand , 203,765
hectares representing fifty-five percent of total
mangrove area were lost. In Vietnam , only 60,000
hectares of an original 200,000 hectares in the Mekong
Delta remain. In the Philippines , only 117,000
hectares remain out of 500,000 hectares of mangroves
in the 1920s. Mangrove conversion to fishponds is the
main reason for the precarious state of our fishing
sector,” Federizo pointed out.
On the other hand, one can also argue that the ADB and
IFI’s are not entirely to blame; guiltier are the
government agencies mandated to protect the
environment but allowed the destruction of mangroves;
guiltier are Filipino investors greedy enough to
sacrifice national interests. Dynamite and cyanide
fishing and other environmentally damaging methods are
committed with impunity.. Even if the ADB and IFI’s
were to see light and strictly require adherence to
international environmental standards, only the
Filipinos can take care of the Philippines.

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