DFAR creation urged to manage PH water, marine resources

A Mindanao congressman has filed a bill seeking the creation of the Department Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) to manage the country’s water and marine resources.

In filing the bill, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the Philippines “is blessed with enormous bodies of water and abundant marine resources.”

“Two-thirds of the territorial area of the Philippines is composed of water, covering a total area of 171 million hectares. For this reason, a significant number of Filipinos engage in fishing as their main source of livelihood,” said Rodriguez, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments.

Rodriguez said the proposed DFAR has to be created “to ensure the preservation and proper development of the nation's archipelago waters and marine resources.”

He added the planned new department “shall have the power to manage, develop, protect, conserve, and utilize all fisheries and aquatic resources of the country, except for municipal waters, which shall remain under the jurisdiction of local government units.”

The Cagayan de Oro City lawmaker pointed out the proposed DFAR would “likewise regulate the production, capture, processing, and marketing of fisheries and marine products.”

“This is to make sure the country's marine wealth is to be exclusively used for the benefit of the Filipino people. The creation of the DFAR will help in pursuing the government's thrust to increase food production to meet the demands of our fast growing population and alleviate poverty among fishermen,” he stressed.

The proposed new department would have “primary jurisdiction over the management, conservation, development, protection, utilization, and disposition of all fishery and aquatic resources of the country, including the habitats of fish and all other marine life and over activities which impact on these habitats, except for municipal waters, which shall remain under the jurisdiction of local government units.”

It would also have the “authority to supervise and regulate the production and capture of fish and fishery products within its jurisdiction, as well as the processing and marketing of all fisheries and aquatic products in the country.”

The planned DFAR would “have the responsibility of rationalizing all ocean sector initiatives which impact on fish and marine resources or their habitat, including, but not limited to marine-energy exploration and development, coastal and marine tourism, designation of shipping lanes, protected areas, and, marine industry development areas.”

The DFAR would be headed by a secretary who would be assisted by three undersecretaries: one for fisheries production and utilization, another for fisheries conservation and management, and the third for operations.

It would also have the following agencies and offices: National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council, National Fisheries Research and Development Institute and Office of Ocean and Marine Affairs.

It would  have a fisheries and aquatic resources information service, policy analysis and planning service, as well as personnel, finance, legal, and property and general services.

The bill defines the powers and functions of the department’s officials and offices under it. Several bureaus would be created to help the department carry out its functions.

Rodriguez proposed an initial budget of P5 billion for DFAR, plus P500 million for the construction of its national office.