Press Release
February 28, 2010


Senator Loren Legarda urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Resources (BFAR) to immediately implement measures, including the release of funds, to minimize the damage of the El Nino phenomenon to the fishery sector.

Loren sounded the call as she was alarmed by the report of fish kills and red tide cases in some provinces of the country which would surely affect the livelihood and income of the country' fisherfolk particularly the small fishermen and operators of fish ponds.

Loren, chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, noted BFAR report that low levels of oxygen in fish ponds due to the dry spell have resulted in the fish kills in aquaculture areas in Luzon and Isabela province.

"But authorities said the problem can still be mitigated, that is why I am urging the DA and the BFAR to act quickly on this problem in order to minimize the losses on the part of fisherfolk and the fishery sector in general.

I appeal to all who process papers in agriculture and fishery bureaucracy for the release of funds for El Nino-related purposes in agriculture and fisheries. Please expedite paper work. Namamatay na ang mga tanim at mga hayop. (Plants and animals are dying.) ." the lady senator said.

The BFAR, last Thursday, reported that around 10,000 kilograms of dead tilapia were retrieved from the Magat Dam in Isabela, whose water level has been decreasing in recent days.

The agency also reported that ten additional water pumps have been set to work at the Ifugao side of the Magat Dam to induce water movement and help improve the levels of dissolved oxygen. The BFAR also advised dam operators to harvest earlier to prevent any more fish kills.

According to BFAR director Malcolm Sarmiento: "Ito (fish kill) ay nangyayari kapag bumababa ang level ng tubig sa fish pond. Kapag bumaba ang level, bumababa rin ang level ng dissolved oxygen, at pag nagkulang ng level of oxygen, nahihirapan ang mga isda. Dapat magbawas ng stock kung ganoon ang nangyayari."

Loren also warned the public not to eat fish which floated in fish ponds due to lack of oxygen saying that Sarmiento has issued warning that fish found already floating in ponds are unsafe to eat and must not be harvested for human consumption.

She issued the warning because she was alarmed by a report originating from Alfonso Lista, Ifugao, quoting a certain Lisa Magtanong, a fish cage worker who said "tilapia that floated in cages, pens and ponds did not go to waste because operators and their families have been collecting them for home consumption."

Sarmiento said:" Ang payo namin, pag naghihingalo ang isda safe yan. Nahihirapan lang naman sila dahil walang oxygen. Pero pag lumulutang na sila, dapat wag nang kainin..Pag namatay kasi ang isda, lulubog yan, at after some time, lulutang uli.. at that stage, di na po dapat gamitin."

Loren, who also chairs the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM), called on the Department of Health and market inspectors of local government units (LGUs) to regularly conduct market inspection to monitor whether fishes and shellfish sold in the public markets, particularly those located in affected areas are safe to eat.

"Although the DOH has banned the harvesting and selling of shellfish products in red tide affected areas such as Sorsogon Bay in Sorsogon; Murcielagos Bay in Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental; Bislig Bay in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur and Dumaguilan Bay, Zamboanga del Sur, it is still better to monitor public markets to ensure the public's health," Loren said.

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