FISH SUFFICIENT. Former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Wednesday (March 22, 2023) says that using modern fish cage farming technology, particularly the submersible fish cages, could make the Philippines fish sufficient. He notes that 5,000 fish cages with an estimated yield of 20 metric tons (MT) each could produce 100,000 MT of milkfish to cover the 40,000 MT fish supply shortfall of the country yearly. (PNA file photo)

DAVAO CITY – Former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that utilizing modern fish cage farming technology, particularly the submersible fish cages, can make the Philippines fish sufficient, even in typhoon-prone coastal areas.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Piñol cited that 5,000 fish cages, estimated to yield 20 metric tons (MT) each, could produce 100,000 MT of milkfish, which is 40,000 MT more than the country's annual fish supply shortfall.

"One of the cruelest jokes we Filipinos have inflicted upon ourselves is importing food commodities that we could easily produce if only we recognize our resources and potentials," he said.

Problems, challenges

He added that any program aimed at achieving fish sufficiency in the country should be supported by a well-coordinated effort that involves technology provision, affordable feeds, financing, and marketing.

Piñol said the country has all it needs to become fish sufficient, with a thousand rivers and lakes, a coastline of 36,289 kilometers, and coastal waters of over 26 million hectares.

"However, this is easier said than done because there are problems and challenges that could derail any plan to produce more fish," he added.

He noted that one of the problems faced by the fisherfolk is the lack of "bangus" (milkfish) fingerlings to supply the fish cage operators as the country depends on imported fish fries from Indonesia.


"The solution to this problem is to support local hatcheries with funding to expand their operations and assure them of a market for their fry and to establish at least three huge and modern hatcheries in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao," he said.

Piñol added that funding support by government and government financing institutions, including private banks, is critical in the success of the aquaculture undertakings of private investors and individual farmers.

"With the correct policies and focus on aquaculture and fisheries, we could be a major fish and marine powerhouse in this part of Asia," Piñol said.

He also urged the government to provide affordable aqua feeds and inputs through the establishment of feed processing facilities near the location of the fish cages or fishponds.

"Right now, it is the high cost of feeds that prevents most fish cage farmers from expanding their operations and contributing to great fish productivity," he said.

Ready market

Piñol emphasized that the most critical component of any program is a ready market to boost aquaculture and fish production in the country.

"Without a market to absorb and reposition the produce, there could be an artificial glut in the market which would result in losses to fish farmers," Piñol said.

One thing to consider, he said, is the reactivation of the Food Terminal Incorporated as a food procurement and distribution agency of the government for reasonable prices.

"Given the lack of infrastructure and easy access to the market, the PHP150 per kilo of bangus in Malalag, Davao del Sur, could end up being bought by a consumer in Cebu for PHP250," he said. (PNA)