February 14, 2012
Mr. President, distinguished colleagues:
I have the honor to seek approval of Senate Resolution No. 708, entitled "Resolution concurring in the ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM) to establish the Office of the WorldFish Center in the Philippines" prepared and submitted by the Committee on Foreign Relations on 8 February 2012 per its Committee Report No. 124.
The Philippines now imports galunggong and dilis. The country's most popular fish is not just getting fewer. It is also getting smaller.
This was the news that faced us several days ago.
Galunggong, known as the poor man's fish, is also no longer cheap. It retails at P140 per kilo.
Last year, marine product imports hit 800,000 MT, of which galunggong made up 60 percent.
BFAR said the country's marine grounds have become heavily exploited over the years. Ten of 13 areas mapped are said to be "very heavily exploited".
Mr. President, agriculture, forestry and fisheries employ seven in ten Filipinos, but in 2010 their work contributed only 16.8% of the country's GDP.  The Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that the fisheries subsector, which accounted for 20.7 percent of the total agricultural output in 2011, contracted 4.1 percent.
What is this telling us? The food security of nearly 100 million Filipinos is threatened and the employment of 1.5 million Filipinos is at risk. The grim reality facing us is we have more people working on an increasingly declining resource base with very low productivity.
Rich and yet hungry
The Philippines has one of the world's richest ecosystems, characterized by extensive coral reefs, sea-grass beds and dense mangroves. In 2008, we are 6th in global fish and aquaculture production. We were 4th in 1985.
The Philippines was the second largest seaweed producer in the world, next to China, and dislodged only in 2007 by Indonesia.
These figures suggest we are rich in fisheries and coastal resources as a nation, and yet, hunger affected 4.5 million families in the last quarter of 2011.
This alarming irony becomes even more glaring in the fact that while we are rich in fisheries and coastal resources, among the poorest in our country are coastal communities with 4 of 10 coastal residents living under poverty line.
Why can so many Filipinos be hungry, Mr. President, amidst plenty?
The past three decades have seen the rapid decline of the Philippine coastal ecosystem --70% of the mangroves and 20% of its sea-grass are destroyed; nearly 90% of coral reefs are under threat; and biomass of coastal fish stocks is only 10%-30% of its state in 1940s.
The reported "scarcity" of supply of our "galunggong" would not have happened if measures were in place to preserve its breeding grounds, and if livelihood of small-scale fishermen were safeguarded.
The Philippines and WorldFish Center (ICLARM):
These realities are relevant to the resolution I now submit for consideration.
The WorldFish Center, also known as the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management or ICLARM, is an international research organization dedicated to reducing poverty and hunger by improving fisheries and aquaculture.
ICLARM was established in Manila in 1976 as a private, non-profit corporation for the purpose of operating and maintaining a center on international aquatic resources management and addressing critical research issues in this field.
It has since evolved into an organization with international juridical status with the signing of the Agreement to Constitute ICLARM as an International Organization on April 22, 1993. Denmark, Malawi, Philippines and Vietnam signed the Agreement, with Australia, Egypt and Malaysia acceding eventually. We initially hosted ICLARM's headquarters in 1996, but it has since moved its headquarters in Penang, Malaysia.
Over the years, the Center has been working closely with a number of research institutions in the Philippines to increase fish production, improving resource management and equitable distribution of benefits in developing countries and protecting the environment.
The initial joint projects included genetic improvement of tilapia brood stock and a program of research and training in aquaculture and inland fisheries with Central Luzon State University, and implementation of the graduate study program in aquatic resources with the Philippine Council for Agricultural Resources Research.
As of 2011, the WorldFish Center has collaborated with 78 institutions, both public and private, in the Philippines. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Bureau of Agricultural Research, Department of Science and Technology, Freshwater Aquaculture Center/Central Luzon State University, and University of the Philippines are among the national institutions with the most number of collaborative projects with the WorldFish Center.
Clearly, Mr. President, much work remains to be done in the fisheries sector.
The presence of ICLARM in the Philippines, through a duly established Office, will allow for continuity in its programs and joint initiatives with the Philippine government and other partner institutions.
The Center will contribute to our efforts in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on poverty reduction and hunger elimination. The World Fish Center's projects on small-scale fisheries practice and aquaculture will contribute to improving nutrition and raising incomes in rural areas. Its work on biodiversity information systems will provide scientific basis for projects involving natural resources management and aquaculture. Its work on environmental conservation, jointly with our institutions, will be key to fighting poverty, food security and over-all economic development.
For these reasons, I humbly submit for the Senate's approval, Senate Resolution No. 708, under Committee Report No. 124.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Tuesday, July 28