Subject: State, private sector looking at Timor Leste sea to raise tuna catch

Business World

Saturday, October 4, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

State, private sector looking at Timor Leste sea to raise tuna catch

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and tuna fishing companies will survey Timor Leste's Banda Sea next month to jump-start the country's bid to catch tuna in the area, officials said yesterday.

"We can go to Timor Leste in November after the budget hearing [of BFAR]," Malcolm I. Sarmiento, director of BFAR, said in a phone interview. Meanwhile, Assistant Director Gil A. Adora said "the private sector is still organizing themselves [for the trip]."

In August, the Philippines and Timor Leste signed a memorandum of agreement on fisheries sectors.

Specifically, Manila and Dili agreed to cooperate in post-harvest; fish processing development and marketing; coastal management and development; marine fisheries conservation; combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices; as well as environmental protection.

"Subject to their respective laws and regulations, the Parties agree to grant fishing licenses to each other's fishing vessels," the pact read. "The private sector should study what fish is there and what equipment is needed,"

Mr. Adora said. "It [fishing in foreign waters] is always a global competition, other countries might be more aggressive to start fishing."

The government is looking at harvesting 30,000-50,000 metric tons of tuna from Banda Sea.

There is a catch, however. Tuna fishers might be dissuaded to fish in Timor Leste because of high fuel prices and the lack of equipment, Mr. Adora noted. BFAR is pushing for a P250-million fund next year to grant loans for the tuna fishers' equipment upgrade.

The Philippines' deep-sea fishing industry has been reeling from poor catch, which it attributed to global warming in the Pacific Ocean; high diesel prices that have forced fleets to cut their fishing expeditions; as well as a current ban by Jakarta on foreign fishing vessels bringing fish caught in Indonesian waters to other countries for processing.

High costs of fuel, which accounts for up to 70% of operating costs, resulted in fishers reducing fishing operations, Mr. Sarmiento said.

In the first semester, the fisheries subsector experienced a growth slowdown of 2.74% from a 7.24% expansion during the same period last year due to steep increase in oil prices and typhoons and natural calamities, a data of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics show. Tunas caught in Philippines waters total 300,000-350,000 metric tons a year, Mr. Sarmiento said.

Neil Jerome C. Morales

Back to October Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu