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DA eyes untapped West Philippine Sea areas to boost fish production

MANILA, Philippines —  The Department of Agriculture is eyeing to develop untapped areas in the West Philippine Sea to boost the country’s fish production and lessen dependence on importation, a ranking official said yesterday.

In an interview with The STAR, Agriculture Undersecretary for policy, planning and regulations Asis Perez said that there are still unexplored resources in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“The fishers do not need to go in areas where there is a threat (of Chinese vessels). The West Philippine Sea is so vast so (the harassment of Chinese) should not deter us. What I am saying is, there are still areas that are relatively peaceful and unexplored. We can tap these areas if we have enough incentives for them (fishers) to do that,” he added.

Perez said commercial fishers should be encouraged to operate in the West Philippine Sea.

“There are not enough (commercial fishers) that operate in the West Philippine Sea. One of the limitations is the tax component these Philippine vessels need to pay to the government. We can assign these ships, private holders in those areas. They can fish there but again, the government needs to provide the incentive as the government is not involved in fishing,” he said.

Perez noted that millions of dollars are being spent every year to import fish.

“We should explore our untapped resources so that there is no need for us to import fish,” he noted.

Perez, a former director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, vowed to push for the development of the WPS for fishing.

“We know our limitations, but within those limitations, there are areas with no limitations,” Perez said, referring to the presence of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea.