SEAFDEC’s gab aims to strengthen aquaculture, combat illegal fishing

(From left) Atty. Demosthenes Escoto, officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources; SEAFDEC-AQD chief Dan Baliao and SEAFDEC Secretary General Malinee Smithrithee in a press briefing on the sideline of the 45th Meeting of SEAFDEC’s Program Committee. (Jennifer P. Rendon)

By Jennifer P. Rendon

Around 60 participants from 11 member-countries of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) gathered in Iloilo City for the 45th Meeting of SEAFDEC’s Program Committee (PCM).

Hosted by the SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department (AQD), the PCM meeting brings together delegates from SEAFDEC’s 11 member-countries Brunel Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Also in attendance are senior officials and staff from SEAFDEC’s five departments that include researchers, scientists, and experts.

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. was supposed to deliver the keynote speech but Atty. Demosthenes Escoto, officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) represented him.

The program runs from Dec 5 to 10 and will be mostly held at the Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo Hotel in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

SEAFDEC-AQD chief Dan Baliao said PCM is where the technical aspects of SEAFDEC’s programs are discussed before they are approved by the Council, its policy-making body.

Basically, there would be review on the technological advancement subject if it’s still functional or not, thus the need to meet every year, Baliao said.

SEAFDEC Secretary General Malinee Smithrithee said the PCM annual meeting is about reviewing the past achievements and the future activities being implemented by the department

“The objective is to align all programs that we will boil down to the benefit of the stakeholders,” Smithrithee said.

During PCM meetings, the programs are formulated and implemented in line with the priorities and needs of the member countries.

Smithrithee underscored the role of fisheries in boos in the food security and supporting the livelihood of ordinary fisherfolks.

“We discuss the sustainability of aquaculture of this part of the region,” she said.

But is not only sustainability of the fisheries in terms of food security that is being discussed, the PCM meetings also highlight efforts of the member countries to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Breaching both national and international fishing laws, IUU fishing is a global problem that deemed to threaten ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries.

If not given attention to, IUU fishing might pose a threat to food security, she added.

Meanwhile, Escoto said that as far as the Philippine is concerned, “we are very thankful to SEAFDEC for establishing the aquaculture department here in the Philippines.”

“The thrust of the current administration is to attain food security and by doing that, the government is trying to invigorate fisheries sector, and one aspect of that is on aquaculture,” he added.

In support of the SEAFDEC programs, Escoto said one of the major collaborations of the government right now is on legislated hatcheries.

When asked if they would be infusing more funds to SEAFDEC, Escoto said they are aggressively collaborating with the agency.

“If there’s a need to do that to strengthen their programs, we are open to discuss that with SEAFDEC,” he said.

After all, the government really recognized the big contributions of SEAFDEC as far as fisheries is concerned, Escoto added.