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Plan to turn fishponds into mangrove areas hit

By: - Correspondent / @nestorburgosINQ
/ 09:29 PM March 16, 2012

ILOILO CITY—A group of fish producers in Iloilo is protesting a proposed Department of Agriculture (DA) guideline that would convert idle government-leased fishponds into mangrove areas.

The Iloilo Fish Producers’ Marketing Cooperative Inc. (IFPMCI) said the proposed Fisheries Administrative Order No. 197-1 would adversely affect holders of Fishpond Lease Agreements (FLAs).

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An FLA is an agreement entered into between the agriculture secretary and a fishpond applicant for the lease of public land to develop for fishpond purposes for a 25-year period.

Tomas Hautea, IFPMCI chair, said the fish producers, especially those engaged in milkfish production, considered the proposed changes “counterproductive, coercive and confiscatory.”

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David Villaluz, the cooperative’s secretary, said the DA should conduct extensive dialogue and consultations before the implementation of the guidelines.

The guidelines cover the reversion into mangrove areas of all abandoned, undeveloped and underdeveloped public lands that were leased for fishpond use.

Villaluz said certain revisions in the guideline would be detrimental to fishpond operators and fish producers as it would affect the productivity and feasibility of fishponds.

The revised guideline shortens the allowable lease period from 25 years to only 10 years while increasing the annual lease fees from P1,000 to P5,000 per hectare.

On the other hand, it would also reduce the maximum area that could be leased from 50 ha to only 10 ha for an individual lessee and from 250 ha to 100 ha for cooperatives or associations.

Villaluz said the government should look into and also consider the reasons some FLA-covered areas have been idle, undeveloped or underdeveloped.

“We have been suffering from low prices and sales for the past seven years and we have only been recovering for a few months. The government should intervene more in helping boost the market of our products,” Villaluz said.

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The proposed guideline, which is anchored on the conservation and rehabilitation of mangrove areas, should be “balanced” so as not to compromise food supply and production, according to Hautea.

He said they have sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala requesting for a region-wide dialogue so they could air their opposition and present proposals.

Mangrove conservation advocates have repeatedly called on the government to revert abandoned government-leased fishponds into mangrove areas.

They have called on the government agencies to draft guidelines on the cancellation and reversion process of thousands of hectares of abandoned, underdeveloped and unutilized government-leased ponds back to mangroves.

The conversion of these abandoned fishponds covered by FLAs would help achieve the ideal 4:1 mangrove-pond ratio required for a healthy environment, according to retired scientist and mangrove specialist Jurgenne Primavera in an earlier interview.

The present average is a 0.5:1 mangrove-pond ratio for the whole country, she said.

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TAGS: Department of Agriculture, fishpond, Iloilo, mangrove
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