TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, August 24 (PIA)—Bohol may not look far when it comes to seeking a stable supply of cheap fish, it can be easily found here.
Experts at the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) think a strong support to mariculture and engaging big ticket investments along this line would make flooding fish in Bohol literally at arms’ reach.
Now scampering to stabilize what many believe as an artificial manipulation if only to dictate the local prices of fish, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has stepped in.
DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol weeks ago, promised to treat the situation by bringing in fish from different regions through his department’s TienDA.
TienDA is DA’s version and actualization of the “farmer’s market” concept, by putting up a venue for farmers and fishers to be able to directly sell their produce, and for consumers to be able to access these products at its farm gate price.
Opened at the Bohol Agricultural Promotion Center (BAPC) last August 16 and 17, the first batch of TienDA’s Bohol Fish Market Bohol brought to Bohol a wide option of fish for the Boholano table, marine resources which were priced way below those found at local markets and travelling peddlers.
Data shared during the tow day selling event bared that the fish market allowed nearly 20 tons of cheap fish and sea products to Boholanos.
Further assuring Boholanos that the TienDA is not just temporary supply spiking to disrupt a local aberration in pricing, Sec Piñol announced: August 16-17 TienDA is just the start of similar farmer-fishers and consumers engagements.
Last August 24, the second TienDA Bohol Fish market reopened for a day at the BAPC.
But instead of the bulk of fish supply, local consumers were in for a disappointment: Zamboanga, which earlier assured to bring the huge bulk of fish supply for the one day selling event refused.
Bohol fish dealers who earlier took a huge supply from Zamboanga did not pay, resulting in the stalling of the supply flow.
Just as BFAR facilities in Calape and Regions 8 and 10, the second Bohol Fish Market managed less than 5 tons, to the dismay of DA officials and consumers here.
It was not known of local officials stepped in to patch the situation, but BFAR fisheries experts said Bohol need not look far.
“We brought in 2.1 tons of milkfish (bangus) from Region 10,” BFAR 10 Aquatechnician Jejomar Grupo said.
The supply, which BFAR 10 arranged to bring in, came from only one source: a fish cage operator in Lopez-Jaena, Misamis occidental.
The supply, Grupo, added, is only from one module of a 10 cubic meters (cu m) by 10 cum by 8 meter-deep cage in a mariculture project. The operator owns many modules.
In Bohol, Talibon resident, regional mariculture expert and now Cebu BFAR Fisheries Officer Edgar Delfin, Bohol Fishery Officer Leo Bongalos and BFAR Panggangan Calape Facility chief Dionisio Colantro altogether believe these is still something Bohol can do: take a second hard look at mariculture as a local source of fish supply.
Delfin, whose office monitors fisheries supply in Cebu admit: a fish cage in Tambo Island in Talibon with an investor from Cebu, grows fish and harvests tons and tons but for Cebu markets.
And while the Tambo fish cage is settled in possible Foreshore Lease Agreement, there are instances when local officials can make arrangements that a certain percentage of the regular harvest would be supplied to Bohol markets, hinted Colantro, whose facility in Calape breeds bangus fingerlings for distribution to government and private commercial fish growers and fishpond owners.
Delfin said building a 10 x10 x 8 cum, using bamboo floaters, nets and mooring buoys, would only cost about P150K to P160K, while a 6 feeding regimen a day for 3 months of operation would cost about P500K.
But with a stocking density of 30 fingerlings in a cubic meter, a 15,000 fingerling seeded, at least 30% mortality, a modular cage can still harvest 5 tons.
With multiple modules, an investor with 10-12 modules or a capitalization of P10 million can easily supply 10 tons of fish every month.
Delfin cited the favorable waters and sheltered bays in Bohol as ideal for fish cages and mariculture parks.
Bohol PFO Bongalos also recalled that the BFAR used to put up about five mariculture parks in Bohol, but now, only two have remained, and these are not even sustainable as these are just single modules enough to transfer the technology to local fishers who could be support workers for investments in the area.
BFAR said these facilities were placed in Maribojoc, Mabini, Candijay, Talibon and Calape.
“We had 5 mariculture parks, but it is sad to say that we have not engaged enough large scale private investors. What we had are small scale investors who could hardly recoup operational expenses,” Delfin lamented, further explaining the economies of scale.
And from these, only in Talibon did an investor, who keeps over 54 modules with alternating fish stocking pattern that a weekly harvest of over 10 tons happen, the bulk of the fish getting to Cebu.
At 29.8% fish sufficiency in Bohol citing Philippine Statistics Authority survey in 2017, an influx of locally supplied fish from mariculture parks, a weekly bulk supply can easily plus stricter marker regulations can dent upon the issue, experts propose.
In Candijay for example, the main bulk of the fishery harvest is dedicated to local markets and only the excess is shipped out, Bohol PFO Bongalos shared.
In fact, there is nothing more Bohol can ask, we have hatcheries that provide over 1.3 million fingerlings in Panggangan, multi-species hatcheries in Sinandigan Ubay, Clarin brackish water nursery and Bentig facility in Calape, BFAR authorities said.
Over this Colantro, who has 38 years of fisheries expertise under his belt proposed more investments in good storage facilities to keep supplies stable even in times of pinch.
He picked emergency harvest situations in fish cages especially amidst threat of impending typhoons, this time, in an oversupply of fish, prices go sagging down, but with storage facilities, everything can be kept to stabilize local prices.
While Bohol boasts of being among the most investor friendly province, questions as to why there are no takers for large scale marine investments, unlike less investor friendly provinces, kept bugging people.
As to its answer, local officials must work harder as the daily influx of tourists all the more put a strain on the local fish consumption, fisheries experts pointed out. (rahc/PIA-7/Bohol)