The National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) conducted a Roundtable Discussion on Managing Philippine Coastal and Inland Fisheries, on March 17, 2015 at Acacia Hotel Manila.
The RTD reviewed government policies and programs for the management of the country’s municipal fisheries. It also identified and recommended actions and strategies for the sustainable management of the country’s municipal fisheries for policy consideration.
Invited experts were Atty. Benjamin Felipe S. Tabios Jr., assistant director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR); Dr. Adelaida L. Palma, station chief, of the National Inland Fisheries Technology Center, BFAR; Ms. Liza M. Quirog, head of the Socio-Economic and Environment Management  Cluster of the province of Bohol, who served as the representative of Bohol Governor Hon. Edgar M. Chatto; and Dr. Vincent V. Hilomen, executive director for Priority Programs and Coastal and Marine, Biodiversity Management Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-BMB),  who served as the representative of Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim, director of DENR-BMB.
Resource persons from BFAR discussed the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 or Republic Act (R.A.) 8550 as amended by R.A. No. 10654. Atty. Tabios discussed various programs on resource protection, resource enhancement, livelihood enhancement,  post-harvest, infrastructure, and marketing support, and priority thrusts for aquaculture. He also highlighted the importance of science as the basis for their fisheries management. He also discussed the challenges faced by the implementation of the law and programs, particularly the environmental and economic challenges.
Atty. Tabios presented data from State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) 2014 where the Philippines ranked 12th in marine capture fisheries and 11th in terms of farmed food fish production worldwide. He emphasized the important role of sustainability in improving management of fisheries.
Dr. Palma focused on the National Inland Fisheries Enhancement Program Application, where she highlighted the valuable involvement of the local government units (LGUs) and fisher folk as managers. According to her, they intend to develop minor lakes for ecotourism with the help of the local people. This way, they can utilize the lake resources for both aquaculture and ecotourism.
She also discussed various projects on inland fisheries management, research and development, conservation and fisheries management, and monitoring, control and surveillance system, registration of fisherfolk and fishing banca, maintenance of fisheries related facilities, and institutional linkages.
Ms. Quirog presented the management initiatives of Bohol coastal and fisheries resources which include technical assistance to local government units and community resource management initiatives, marine protected area management, innovation in aquaculture program, and coastal law enforcement.
Ms. Quirog also enumerated the challenges that they faced in the implementation of their projects and programs, namely sustainability, socio-economical, and environmental issues in general. She shared that one of the lessons they learned is the importance of the provincial government in encouraging the LGUs to enforce the law and other agencies to coordinate. She also acknowledged the importance of the multi-sectoral and multi-agency approach in law enforcement with the municipal government as lead.
Dr. Hilomen discussed the conservation and management of marine biodiversity to support fisheries. According to him, there has been a decline in the state of Philippine fisheries from the 1940s to 2000s due to overfishing, habitat degradation, and years of poor enforcement of policies. This has resulted in a majority of small-scale fishers catching less than 10 kilos per trip per day.
According to Dr. Hilomen, the DENR is collaborating with the academic community to address the information gaps and to better understand fisheries and its dynamics. Moreover, they also intend to create a comprehensive program to cover all coastal and marine ecosystems which include plankton and water quality.
During the open forum, Mr. Pablo de Castro of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Bureau of Local Government Supervision, requested for scientific recommendations from the Academy which they can adopt to help them improve existing laws pertaining to inland fisheries.
National Scientist (NS) Angel C. Alcala, chair of the Biological Sciences Division (BSD) encouraged local social scientists to help make people realize their social commitment as well as the LGUs to pay attention to their local marine resources.
Academician Ruben Villareal, chair of the Agricultural Sciences Division (ASD), stated the need for a balanced and focused management of resources for the achievement of food and management security and alleviation of poverty.

Dr. Mudjekeewis D. Santos, scientist II of the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, gave a synthesis of the discussions. He reiterated the importance of the fisheries sector in the Philippines mainly because of its contribution to livelihood and food. However, the Philippine fisheries are in trouble due to declining stocks, overfishing, and destruction of critical habitats. He emphasized that the involvement of managers is important in addressing the problems through new legal frameworks, intense law enforcement, and additional livelihood sources. Further, science plays a critical role in the formulation of policies and the implementation of municipal fisheries programs.
The activity was organized by the Biological Sciences Division and the Agricultural Sciences Division  of NAST PHL with both chairs as the focal persons. Acd. Rafael D. Guerrero III, member of ASD, served as the moderator and master of ceremonies. (Aislynn Fabiola G. Manuel)