(STAR) By Marianne Go - Despite the increasing yields in aquaculture, a coalition of fisherfolk groups warned the local fishing industry is on the “verge of collapse” due to overfishing and unsustainable aquaculture practices.

The Kilusang Mangingisda claimed the country is already feeling the effects with the increasing deficit in the fish catch since 2005 with the sector unable to cope up with the increasing demand for fish due to the growing population.

Kilusang Mangingisda chairman Ruperto Aleroza cited the Comprehensive National Fishery Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP) which showed an expected increase in the demand for fish from 2.6 million metric tons (MMT) in 2005 to 4.2 MMT by 2025.

Aleroza explained the increase is based on the individual Filipino’s average yearly fish consumption of 31.4 kilos multiplied by 135 million, the expected population by 2025 at a yearly growth rate of 2.36 percent.

Aleroza pointed out the CNFIDP is a strategic fisheries development plan prepared jointly by the government and various stakeholders in the domestic fisheries sector.

He said an average yearly deficit of 403,000 MT of food fish is projected by the CNFIDP from 2005 to 2025, regardless of the expected yearly growths in aquaculture.

The CNFIDP has put the deficit at 205,159 MT in 2005, which would increase to 585,538 MT by 2025.

“This deficit is primarily due to overfishing which has gone unchecked since the 1970s. Overfishing has pushed capture fisheries production beyond the maximum sustainable yield since the 1980s,” Aleroza said.

Aleroza claimed the local fisheries sector is now on the “verge of collapse.”

“Fish stocks are only about 10 percent to 30 percent of their levels in the 1940s and 1950s. The average fish catch has declined to only a sixth of the rate in the 1950s,” he pointed out.

The group said the fish deficit could worsen because 70 percent of aquaculture yearly production is composed of seaweed primarily used for industrial purposes.

Aleroza disputed government’s claim that aquaculture is a better alternative to capture fisheries.

“In its present form, aquaculture in the country remains unregulated and saddled with unsustainable practices,” he said.

Aleroza added mangrove conversions to fishponds had already wiped out two-thirds of the country’s mangroves.

“Excess feeds and organic wastes in fish cages pollute nearshore marine waters and continue to cause fish kills,” he said.

The group blamed the government’s market-driven policies in fisheries production for the neglect of fisheries and aquaculture management.

The group also claimed the government failed to support local fishermen, despite the fact that they make up 95 percent of the fisheries labor force and contribute at least a third of total fisheries production.

To address the food fish deficit and related issues, the group urged the government to rationalize fishing efforts which should not exceed the maximum sustainable yield of 1.9 MMT.

Kilusang Mangingisda also called on the development and expansion of commercial fisheries in the waters of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone which remained undeveloped.

They also urged the government to put up post-harvest facilities like freezers and cold storage depots to minimize fish losses due to spoilage.

RP debt to remain high in next 5 yrs – IMF By Des Ferriols Monday, April 7, 2008

The country’s debts will remain high in the next five years and make the economy vulnerable even with the gradual decline, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said.

Excluding government financial institutions, the IMF said the public sector debt alone was equivalent to over 100 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2003.

The IMF said this ratio has declined to 62.3 percent in 2007 but this was still twice the level of debt in other emerging economies that are competing with the Philippines for exports and investments.

“The sustainability of the Philippines’ public sector debt depends largely on the strength of future reforms,” said IMF resident representative Reza Baqir.

In a report, the IMF said that in the baseline scenario, recent fiscal gains were assumed to be sustained, but no new measures are introduced over the medium term apart from the planned reduction in the corporate income tax (CIT) rate in 2009.

In this scenario, the IMF said the nonfinancial public sector (NFPS) debt would decline, but will remain high at 43 percent of GDP in 2013.

“While the debt dynamics are favorable overall, they remain vulnerable to shocks, especially to the exchange rate and, to a lesser extent, growth,” the IMF said.

However, the IMF said that the currency and maturity structure of public debt was a cause for concern because the share of public debt exposed to exchange rate risk is well above the emerging market average.

The IMF said that a one-time real depreciation of 30 percent, for example, was estimated to entail a 15-percentage point jump in the external debt ratio from its 2008 level and would remain above 50 percent in the medium term.

In addition, the IMF said the maturity structure of public debt remains tilted toward the short end, almost three times the emerging market average. “This renders the debt dynamics vulnerable to a deterioration in investor sentiment,” the IMF said.

On the other hand, the IMF also said external debt has steadily declined—from nearly 80 percent of GDP in 2003 to just over 40 percent in 2007, with the strong peso and stronger growth each responsible for about half of the change.

Under the IMF’s baseline scenario, the external debt ratio would fall gradually over the medium term to just below 30 percent in 2013.

“Such a level of external indebtedness compares favorably with other emerging market economies, and past empirical work suggests that it entails limited vulnerabilities,” the IMF said.

However, the IMF said that continued vulnerability to the exchange rate is expected. Nevertheless, the IMF said the country was showing rising resilience to interest rate and growth shocks.

Given the lengthening of maturities and tilt toward domestic financing, the IMF said external debt had been essentially unaffected by world interest rate and domestic growth shocks.

The IMF said external debt was only moderately affected by non-interest shocks to the current account, ending up five percentage points higher by 2013.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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