Anchored on the President’s social agenda on poverty alleviation and inclusive growth for sectors with high poverty incidence, the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) launched a program aimed at providing targeted livelihood interventions to smallholder fishermen.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala and Senate Chair for Food and Agriculture Committee Cynthia Villar led the commencement of Targeted Actions to Reduce Poverty and Generate Economic Transformation (TARGET) in the Fishery Sector held in Tanza, Cavite, Nov. 24.

Secretary Alcala said that the fishery sector is vital in sustaining food security in the country, citing that it has produced 4.86 million metric tons of fishery and aquatic products valued at P237.7 billion in 2012 which was 15.5 percent (%) of the total agriculture inputs in the same year.

On the other hand, the National Statistics Coordinating Board reports that fishermen exhibited the highest poverty incidence at 39.9% among the nine basic sectors in the country. Moreover, BFAR data says that 1.8 million fisherfolks derive their livelihood, directly or indirectly from the fishery sector, majority of which belong to the municipal fisheries sub-sector.

Alcala said that the government aims to augment the income of poor fishers by at least 4% through the program.

“I am optimistic that we can even surpass this under TARGET. We will directly identify what type of livelihood support will suit best a particular community and provide them necessary interventions like fishing boats, gears, seaweeds and aquaculture implements and post-harvest support,” continued Alcala.

Under the program, 33,206 fisherfolk in 100 coastal communities listed under BFAR’s Fisherfolk Registration System (FishR) and National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTSPR) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will be provided for with livelihood assistance and aquaculture inputs.

Aside from the livelihood component, TARGET will also focus on resource enhancement, resource management and protection, and post-harvest and marketing support.

DA Undersecretary for Fisheries and BFAR Director Asis Perez said that among the issues BFAR hopes to address through the program is the illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which hurt the livelihood of fishers in the municipal waters.

He added that this will be done through enhanced fishery law enforcement and reinforced regulatory activities.

Senator Villar expressed support to the new BFAR program, saying that she is now pushing for strengthened regulatory and enforcement functions of the agency through the Senate Bill 2414, which also aims to grant more stringent penalties to IUU fishing, particularly of commercial deep sea fishing vessels.

She added that with higher penalties and sanctions, BFAR is expected to collect around P1 billion a year which will be used for strengthening the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils (FARMCs), capacity-building of smallholder fishers, establishment of shared facilities, and scholarship. (Catherine Nanta, DA-AFID)(Photo by Jimmy Camba)