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Country Summary
Philippine Fisheries


The term rural aquaculture is broadly defined by Edwards and Demaine (1997) as “the farming of aquatic organisms by small-scale farming households or communities, usually by extensive and semi-intensive low-cost production technology appropriate for their resource base. The resource-poor base of most farms requires off-farm agri-industrial inputs to intensify production. This implies the use of inorganic fertilizers rather than formulated feed to provide low market value produce affordable to poor consumers”.

At first glance the definition seems unambiguous and self-explanatory. However, when taken in the context of the Philippines, a country where fisheries is a very important industry and aquaculture is well established, where the aquaculture production base is more coastal than inland, and which has an urgent need to address widespread poverty and inequity not only in the farmlands but perhaps even more so in the coastal fishing communities, the definition given becomes severely limiting.

Within the Philippines rural aquaculture is not a distinct sector or sub-sector as far as fisheries development planning is concerned. Aquaculture is recognized as an important component of the fisheries industry and figures prominently in all fisheries development plan. Since aquaculture production units are located largely in rural areas. It is merely assumed and accepted that aquaculture development is part of rural development. Yet there is a clear need to recognize the “traditional dichotomy of development: rural or agricultural and urban or industrial” as put forth by Edwards and Demaine. This paper therefore is an attempt to provide a definition of rural aquaculture in the Philippine.

The approach taken in coming up with the definition was to review the Philippine aquaculture industry, species by species and culture system by culture system. The purpose of the review is to identify which of the different culture systems or species caught on or “clicked” into place and which failed and then to identify which can realistically be promoted for the rural poor. The review included profitability, resource required (including specifically land), technological level of development and technological skill required. On those basis a listing was then made of possible culture systems that may be considered part of rural aquaculture in the Philippines. Lastly possible rural aquaculture development projects are proposed.

Country Summary

The Philippines is an archipelagic country with some 7,100 islands. As such it has more water than it has land. With a total territorial water of 2,200,000 km2, it only has 299,735 km2 of land area of which 102,984 km2 or 34% is agricultural. About 94% of the total land area is contained in the eleven largest islands of which Luzon in the north and Mindanao in the south are the two largest, Figure 1. The thousands of islands endow the Philippines with a total coastline of 17,460 km. Within its landmasses are freshwater and brackishwater swamplands, lakes, rivers and reservoirs as shown in Table 1.

The population of the Philippines stood at 68.349 million during the last national census in 1995. With an average of 1.6 million births a year, the country’s population is expected to reach 76.3 million by the year 2000. About 38% of the population is below 15 years old while only 3.5% is older than 64 years old.

The labor force is 27.72 million strong in 1997, with unemployment rate at 8.7%. The largest labor force is found in the service sector at 42.5%, followed closely by agriculture with 40.8%. Only 16.7% comes from industry.

Even with a large agriculture-based labor force, the Gross Value Added from Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery is the lowest at PHP184,712 million as against PHP320,689 million from Industry as can be seen in Table 2. The Service sector has the highest contribution to the Gross Domestic Product with PHP387,615 million.

With a very low GVA and a large percentage of the population depending upon agriculture, it is evident that the farmers are likely to be the poorest. Indeed of the 32.1% of the families considered poor which is equivalent to 4.531 million families, 3.307 million comes from the rural area and only 1.246 million from the urban area. This is greatly disproportionate in view of the fact that at present, the number of rural families make up only 50.2% of the total.

Even less fortunate are the 16.5% of the total families, numbering 2.303 million considered below the subsistence level. Here the disproportion is even greater. A good 79% or 1.847 million families are found in the rural areas and only 0.488 million in urban areas.

Philippine Fisheries

Fisheries is a very important industry in the Philippines. Its importance is underscored by the fact that as of 1995 the Philippine ranks twelfth among the largest fish producer in the world. and ranks fourth in terms of aquaculture production based on figures from FAO Yearbook, 1995. In terms of contribution to the national Gross Value Added (GVA) in Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry in 1997, fisheries contributed 18.5 percent, at constant prices, as against livestock and poultry which contributed only 12.1% and 10.3% respectively. Fisheries was exceeded only by agricultural crops which contributed 54.1%. as shown in Table 3.

In 1997 the gross value at constant prices of fisheries suffered a slight decrease, at constant prices. This can be traced to the 47.4% drop in the production of black tiger shrimps, Penaeus monodon, from 76,220 mt in 1996 to only 40,102 mt in 1997. Meanwhile the volume of catch from capture fisheries increased by only 0.7% during the same period, not enough to offset the serback suffered by prawn culture. The previous year, 1996, the gross value of fisheries decreased by 0.48% when production from capture fisheries dropped by 4.1 percent over 1995 while shrimp production declined by 14.6%.

In spite of the recent production setbacks in fisheries the industry continues to play an important role. The country’s archipelagic nature is only one of the reasons for its importance. The other reason is the Filipinos’ great liking for fish. No meal is complete without fish. As a result the Philippines has one of the highest per capita fish consumption in the world at 36 kg per year of fish and fishery products (BFAR, 1997).

Philippine fisheries production has always been categorized into three modes of production for statistical and administrative purposes: commercial fisheries, municipal fisheries and aquaculture. Commercial fisheries refer to fishing done in offshore waters using fishing vessels of more than three gross tons. Municipal fisheries refer to fishing done in inland and coastal areas with or without the use of a fishing boat of up to three gross tons. Aquaculture refers to production in enclosures whether ponds, pens, cages or on substrates such as stakes, ropes, lines, nets, shells, or on a demarcated natural bed using seedstock, which may be naturally occurring, or artificially produced in hatcheries.

Philippine fisheries production has been growing, in terms of volume, at an average rate of 2.2% during the last ten years to reach 2.77 M metric tons in 1997. Of the three modes of production, aquaculture has the highest annual growth with 5.42%, followed by commercial fishing with 4.47%. (See Figure 2). Municipal fisheries, on the other hand, has been declining at an average rate of - 1.54%. As a result the contribution of aquaculture to total fisheries production has jumped from only 26.4% in 1988 to a high of 34.6% in 1997. Similarly commercial fisheries has also increased from only 26.4% ten years ago to 32 percent in 1997. In contrast the contribution of municipal fisheries has shrunk from 47.2% in 1988 to only 33.4% in 1997. (See Figure 3).

Export of fisheries products reached 173,887 mt, valued at USD549.83 million in 1997. The main export product in 1997 was tuna with 79,114 mt valued at USD171.72 million. Shrimp used to be the number one export but has fallen to second place with 10,532 mt, valued at USD129.04 million due to production failures which will be discussed in greater detail later. The third most important export is seaweeds that in 1997 reached 40,848 mt with an FOB value of USD95.1 million.

In terms of volume, import of fisheries products at 295,016 mt was higher than exports, with only 173,887 mt. However by value, imports amounted only to USD138.12 million, while exports amounted to USD549.8.. Imports consisted largely of low value item such as fish meal which reached 120,056 mt in 1997. This was followed by frozen tuna, mackerel or sardines, which are mainly for the canning industry. Thus the balance of trade in fisheries is still heavily in favor of the Philippines as shown in Table 4.

The number of persons working in the fisheries industry is estimated by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) at 990,872 as shown in Table 5. This can be an underestimate since the number of persons employed in municipal fisheries is still based on 1980 census figures and those for commercial and aquaculture on 1987 BFAR estimates. In 1980 the National Statistics Office (NSO) conducted a fisheries census jointly with BFAR. It was a very comprehensive survey that unfortunately has not yet been repeated. In 1990, only a census of population and housing was conducted. There was no special census to cover fisheries.

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