April 2, 2004 (STAR) In a bid to bring more fish to the inhabitants of the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR), Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr. pledged to allocate some P700,000 as livelihood assistance to the fish terraces operators of Itogon and Tuba in Benguet, Mountain Province.

Lorenzo made the commitment last week in a message during the inauguration of the Kennon Road fish terraces in Camp 4 Tuba, Benguet.

The fish terraces project is an indigenous aquaculture system developed by the BFAR-CAR for areas with mountainous terrain. Like the world famous rice terraces in Banaue, Ifugao, the fishponds system is designed following the contours or slopes of the mountain and supplied with free flowing water starting from the top-most pond.

The project, composed of six ponds and one circular tank, is an initiative of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and is personally pushed by BFAR Director Malcolm I. Sarmiento, Jr. to address the problem of fish deficiency in the mountain provinces. Fish sufficiency in the Cordillera is estimated to be only about 8.28 percent.

Sarmiento said that through this technology, BFAR hopes to show that fish could be raised even in mountainous regions.

"Maging sa bulubundukin, isda ay maaring paramihin" is the battle cry in promoting the project," according to Director Sarmiento. Literally, this means you could raise fish even in the mountain areas.

Because of the high infrastructure requirement, Sarmiento said he is recommending the production of high value fish species such as the Australian white perch, freshwater prawn or "ulang," Japanese eel or "dojo" and cold tolerant tilapia to attain a positive return on investment in the shortest period of time.

At present, two of the ponds are being utilized for the culture of tilapia, which was stocked late last year. Lorenzo led the stocking of the remaining ponds with high-end fish species. Sarmiento and BFAR-CAR regional director Rebecca Dang-awan and some local officials assisted him.

According to Dang-awan, the BFAR-CAR has established two pilot fish terraces in the Cordillera region, one in Itogon and the other is the newly opened fish terraces in Kennon Road.

Dang-awan said that considering the location as well as the accessibility of the project, the Tuba fish terraces is not only being promoted as a show window on fish culture and production but also as a destination for eco-tourists.

William Lapaan of Camp 4, Kennon Road, Tuba, Benguet is the BFAR-CAR cooperator of the project. Dang-awan said Lapaan was chosen because he stands out among his peers, even though he has a physical disability that most men would consider a limitation. He has only one leg but this did not deter him from pursuing a business in aquaculture.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved