by Secretary Emmanuel Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

With a coastline length of 36,289 kilometers, the 5th longest in the world, and surrounded by seas and ocean, it is unthinkable that the Philippines still imports fish from countries whose fishermen could be fishing in our own waters.

While the fisheries sector submitted a positive performance of 1.4% growth for the first time in decades under the Duterte Administration, so much more needs to be done to realize the country's fish production potentials.

In my endless journey to the various fishing grounds of the country when I was Agriculture Secretary and now as Chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), I realized that one of the problems affecting fish production is the absence of post-harvest facilities in most of the country's fishing grounds.

In Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat, fishermen use ice in small plastic wrappers to preserve their Tuna catch placed in huge styro boxes.

In Tawi-Tawi, fish is sold in the market by heaps and everything must go within the day of catching, so the price goes down as the sun sets resulting in very little income to the small fishermen.

The problem is very simple - the absence of ice plants and cold storage to preserve the catch and bring it to the market.

Mindanao's fisheries and aquaculture sector, however, faces an exciting improvement in the next five years, thanks to the grant fund by the European Union for the Mindanao Rise Program.

The grant fund to be handled by MinDA amounting to P2.1-B will be used in projects to be implemented by our development partners following three parameters:

1. The projects must address poverty in the agriculture and fisheries sector of Mindanao;

2. The projects must contribute to productivity in the above-mentioned sector;

3. The funds must be used to trigger the economic recovery programs in Mindanao.

The top priority project identified by MinDA in our many planning sessions is the intervention to improve the Fisheries and Aquaculture sector in Mindanao.

Following the lessons I learned in my journeys, I have designed a program called Mindanao Fisheires and Aquaculture Development Program (MINFAD) which aims to establish Fish Centers in at least 22 coastal and inland fishing grounds in the region.

The "Fish Centers" will be equipped with facilities needed to improve productivity, from hatcheries to feed mills, from ice-plants to cold storage, and processing facilities.

Using digital technology, the "Fish Centers" will be inter-connected through a digital platform which will gather information daily on the volume of catch and the species of fish.

In designated Mariculture Parks, processing facilities will be established so that what will come out would be products with added value ready for the market.

MinDA has already started the validation of the different "Fish Center" sites and hopefully, the program will be implemented before the end of the year.

We have set a target and that is to double Mindanao's current Aquaculture and Fisheries Production of 2-million metric tons annually by the year 2025 or five years from now.

Ambitious? A pipe dream? Maybe!

Everything starts with a dream, after all!

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