Philippines

A darkened indoor fish market
Canned sardines

$62m fisheries investment - The Philippine government is to invest US$62 million implementing an integrated coastal resources management project aimed at improving the management of coastal marine and fisheries resources in selected targeted areas throughout the Philippines archipelago.

The project aims to improve economic and social conditions for communities within target areas, most of which rely on the fishing industry for their livelihood and income.

Plans to improve coastal marine and fisheries resource management form an important part of the government’s long term programme to develop the fisheries industry along with increased reliance on aquaculture production.

Fisheries are a major source of nutrition for the estimated 89 million population and provide more than 50% of animal protein consumed in the country.

Announcement of the major investment initiative to improve marine resource management follows the issuing of Executive Order 533 by Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in June 2006 adopting Integrated Coastal Management as a national strategy to ensure the sustainable development of the country’s coastal and marine environment and resources. The order requires the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to develop a national programme on coastal and marine resources management, by following an integrated approach and dealing with related legal, social and other issues.

The Philippines is the 11th largest fish producer in the world with a total annual fisheries catch worth an estimated US$2.5 billion, equivalent to 4.3% of the gross national product. Marine fisheries account for about 62% of total annual fisheries yield while the rest comes from aquaculture and inland fisheries.

According to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, fishery production totalled 3.62 million metric tons (mt) in 2003, including about 900,000mt of seaweed, which is an important export item. Commercial fisheries production accounts for 1.1 million mt or 31% of total production, while the inshore fishing catch is about 850,000mt, representing 29% of the total. Aquaculture production is about 1.5 million mt, accounting for 40% of total production.

Fishery production has grown gradually during the past decade due mainly to a 65% increase in aquaculture production along with a smaller rise in the commercial fisheries catch. Inshore fisheries production, however, has declined overall due to overfishing and the lack of effective coastal marine resource management.

Municipal or inshore fishing licenses are issued for vessels up to three tons, which are permitted to fish from the shoreline to a distance of 15km offshore. Commercial fishing vessels of three tons and larger are permitted to fish from a distance of 15km offshore and further.

Roundscad is the major species caught by the commercial fishing fleet, accounting for about 22% of the commercial fisheries catch in tonnage terms. Indian sardine is the second largest item accounting for about 14% while frigate tuna represents around 10% of the commercial catch. Other important species include skipjack, yellowfin and big-eyed tuna.

Frigate tuna and big-eyed scad are the two major species caught in inshore waters. Other important species are roundscad, anchovies, Indian mackerel, yellowfin tuna, threadfin bream, squid, blue crab and Indian sardines.

The Philippines is a large archipelago consisting of about 7,100 islands with an estimated 36,000km of coastline stretching 2,000km from north to south. The total territorial water area covers 2.2 million km2 of which 266,00km2 are coastal waters and 1.9 million km2 are oceanic.

Some 832 or 54% of the country’s 1,541 municipalities are located in coastal regions. Some 25 major cities are located on the coast including the capital Manila with 62% of the 86 million population living in a coastal zone.

The marine and coastal areas of the Philippines include a large area of productive ecosystems that include about 25,000km2 of coral reefs, sea grass and algae beds. In addition about 138,000 hectares of mangroves remain from an estimated 450,000 hectares in 1920.

With 430 species of corals, 2,300 species of fish, 16 species of sea grass, hundreds of seaweed species and thousands of marine invertebrate species, the Philippines has one of the richest marine and coastal ecosystems in the world.

Not surprisingly, the benefits derived from the coastal ecosystem are substantial. Coral reefs alone are estimated to contribute at least US$1 billion annually to the domestic economy, a figure that would be much greater with improved coastal management.

Fisheries is an important source of employment with over one million people engaged in fishing and related activities, accounting for about 5% of the labour force. About 68% of those employed are in the coastal fisheries sector. In total about one million families living in coastal regions are dependent on coastal and marine resources for sustenance. About 76% are estimated to be low income households.

An estimated 470,000 fishing vessels below three tons are thought to operate in the Philippines inshore waters. Of these about 292,000 or 62% are non-motorised while 178,000 or 38% are motorised.

The nation’s commercial fishing fleet numbers about 3,600 vessels of three tons and more, totalling 270,000 gross tonnage.

Although the Philippines’ coastal resources are potentially rich and productive, resources are declining and under threat due to human activities, prompting the government to launch its integrated coastal resource management project initiative.

According to official surveys, less than 5% of the 25,000km2 of coral reefs are in excellent condition. Mangrove forests are declining at the rate of about 2,000km a year. Coastal fisheries production has been declining and in some areas productivity is just 10% of that recorded 30 years ago.

Overfishing, the use of destructive fishing practices such as dynamiting and habitat conversion, has affected coastal ecosystems threatening permanent damage while coastal industrial and urban development has lowered coastal waters quality contributing to the declining coastal marine life and fisheries productivity.

Supported by a US$33.8 million Asian Development Bank loan, the government’s integrated coastal resources management project will cover 68 municipalities in six provinces. The six provinces selected are Cagayan in Mindanao, Cebu in the central Visayas region, Davao Oriental in Mindanao, Masbate in the Visayas, also Siquijor and Zambales.

Planned for implementation over a seven year period for completion in mid-2013, the programme will involve the addition of 600 key staff in national, regional, provincial and municipal agencies. The project also includes training for more than 1,000 people in integrated coastal resources management and strengthen marine watching teams in the participating municipalities. In addition alternative and supplementary employment will be created for almost 7,000 fishermen with the setting up of about 680 new fishing village enterprises.

Aimed at improving coastal marine resource management to promote sustainable fisheries, the government’s project investment strategy calls for substantial funding to be directed at coastal marine management skills development and restoration of coastal ecosystems. Among facilities planned are 50 marine protected coral reef areas covering about 5,000 hectares, each area including a ‘no take’ zone of about 100 hectares. Without the project the productivity of the coral reefs is assumed to reduce at the rate of about 2% annually, but with the project productivity is forecasted to increase at about 10% a year or double within 20 years.

The project will also involve reforesting 2,000 hectares of mangroves and 4,000 hectares of watersheds while enriching 7,000 hectares of existing mangrove plantations and 3,000 hectares of watersheds.

Although the project is targeted at six provinces, the government’s intention is that the coastal marine resource management skills base can also be used to support development of improved marine resource management elsewhere in the country.

According to consultants appointed to analyse issues that need to be tackled to ensure the project’s success, policy and institutional weaknesses have contributed to the lack of effective coastal resources management in many parts of the Philippines. While some coastal resources management functions, notably fisheries, have been devolved to local governments, responsibility for other functions such as mangrove and watershed management, also foreshore and coastal pollution management, urban and industrial development, have been retained by national government agencies resulting in conflicting actions and initiatives.

In addition, local governments lack technical knowledge, skills and resources to develop effective management regimes to harmonise various interests operating in coastal areas. Another factor is that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, along with other state agencies, lack sufficient qualified staff to assist local governments in properly carrying out their coastal management functions. Poor compliance with laws and regulations by fishermen is another issue.

In spite of current problems, prospects for improvement are bright based on experience elsewhere in the Philippines. The government first began to launch coastal resources management initiatives in the 1980s, particularly with marine protected areas that benefited coral cover biodiversity and the fish catch. Since then about 150 coastal municipalities and cities along 4,000km of coastline have benefited from coastal resources management programmes.

The incidence of illegal fishing has declined significantly in these provinces while more than 5,000 coastal resource management staff have been trained. In spite of these successes, threats to coastal management still persist for various reasons including weak law enforcement, high poverty levels among coastal fishing communities and the ease of access to marine resources in the Philippines archipelago.

To improve coastal management, the government recognises that an integrated approach is needed with support being provided to the development of local government agencies involved. Also, the participation of local communities in establishing coastal management is needed while fishermen are encouraged to earn additional income from other pursuits so that fisheries do not provide the sole source of income, which encourages overfishing.

Improved coastal fisheries management is expected to increase the Philippines total fishery exports, currently worth over US$500 million annually. Major export items are tuna, prawns, seaweed, octopus and crab products, with prawns, seaweed and crab being produced largely by the coastal fishing community.

Japan accounts for about 25% of the Philippines total fishery exports, followed by the United States with 20% and Europe about 10%. Tuna is the largest category accounting for one third of exports, about 60% of tuna being in cans.

While canned tuna exports are competitive in major importing countries, the retail price of canned fish is a major social issue in the Philippines where canned sardines and rice is the staple diet for many people. Fewer sardines have been caught in recent years, causing a reduction in canned sardine production. At the same time tin plate prices have been high for two years, forcing some households in the Philippines to buy cheaper food.

“Total canned sardine sales are down. They were about 650 to 700 million cans in 2005, but now are down to about 600 million cans in 2006. The main reason is the scarcity of fish,” commented Henry Tanedo, president of the Tin Can Makers Association of the Philippines Inc.

Sardine canning is concentrated in the fish port city of General Santos in Mindanao in the southern Philippines which also is the country’s tuna canning centre. In addition to fewer sardines being caught by the local fishing fleet, high tinplate prices also have affected sales of canned sardines as tin can costs are relatively high compared with the cost of the contents.

Canned sardine prices are politically sensitive owing to canned sardine’s status as a staple item along with rice in the diet of many low income Filipinos.

“Canned sardines are the poor man’s fish. The cost of the empty sardine tin can has increased from 35% of the total filled sardine can cost up to 45% to 50% of the total filled can price. Every can type price has increased,” Tanedo said. “As there was an increase in the sardine fish cost, some people are buying noodles instead. Previously the retail price was three pesos per 202mm sardine can but now it is 9.50 pesos to 10 pesos per filled sardine can.”

With highly price sensitive canned sardine sales under threat, can manufacturers have responded by offering sardine packers thinner gauge cans to trim filling costs.

While most sardines are canned for domestic consumption, the tuna canning industry is largely focussed on exports. Most tuna is filled in two-piece and three-piece 307mm diameter cans which account for about 60% of the total tuna can market. The 603mm diameter tuna can is the other most commonly used size and accounts for about 30% of tuna can production in the Philippines. Two other tuna can sizes are the 211mm can and the less commonly requested 401mm diameter can size.

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