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BFAR’s Panatag visit to give fishers livelihood

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. reshuffled ranking officials of the DA as he issued various special orders on the first working day of 2024.

Laurel issued Special Order No. 5 appointing Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla as undersecretary for DA bureaus from her previous position of undersecretary for policy, planning and regulations.

He also issued SO 4, designating Undersecretary Drusila Esther B ayate as undersecretary for policy, planning and regulations, replacing Sombilla.

Bayate previously occupied the position of undersecretary for fisheries.

Laurel appointed Undersecretary Roger Navarro as officer-in-charge of the office of the undersecretary for rice industry development, replacing Leocadio Sebastian.

Laurel issued SO 1 downgrading the position of Sebastian as a member of the Secretary’s Technical Advisory Group.

The DA chief issued SO 3 also appointing Navarro as OIC of various key offices at the department, including the Office of the National Project Director, Philippine Rural Development Project and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Operations.

Laurel previously appointed Navarro as OIC of the Office of Undersecretary for Operations in December 2023.

Navarro served as special assistant to National Food Authority Administrator Roderico Bioco.

 Navarro also replaced Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa as assistant secretary for operations as Laurel appointed De Mesa as the full-time spokesman of the DA.

Laurel issued SO 2 appointing U-Nichols Manalo as National Rice Program director. Manalo is also the OIC-Director of the Field Operations Service and National Corn Program director.

On the other hand, Laurel is sued SO 6 appointing Telma Tolentino as undersecretary-designate for finance, replacing Undersecretary Agnes Catherine Miranda.

The ongoing revamp of high officials of the DA came after former agriculture senior undersecretary Domingo Panganiban opted to retire from government service more than a year after he returned to the DA and more than a month after President Marcos appointed Laurel.

Panganiban took his oath on Aug. 12, 2022 and his retirement took effect on Jan. 1. He chose to retire amid the ongoing reorganization at the DA.

Laurel had earlier appointed lawyer Genevieve Velicaria-Guevarra as head of the DA’s Consumer Affairs, previously occupied by former DA assistant secretary Kristine Evangelista.

He also signed Special Order 1360 designating lawyer Alvin John Balagbag as head executive assistant and chief of staff.

Balagbag replaced Agriculture Assistant Secretary Rex Estoperez as chief of staff. Estoperez also opted to retire effective Jan. 1. – Catherine Talavera

MANILA, Philippines —  The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will visit Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as part of continuing government efforts to provide livelihood assistance to fisherfolk in the West Philippine Sea, the agency’s spokesman said.

“This year, we will have additional floating assets for the West Philippine Sea and if I am not mistaken, we are scheduled to have a nother voyage in Scarborough Shoal. There will be onboard livelihood training for fishermen,” Nazario Briguera said during the Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing yesterday.

Briguera said at least P80-million initial funding was released during the expedition of BRP Francisco Dagohoy to Pag-asa Island on June 12, 2023 wherein various assistance were given to residents and fisherfolk.

The visit coincided with the Philippines’ celebration of its 125th Independence Day anniversary.

“The LAYAG-WPS or Livelihood Activities to Enhance Fisheries Yields and Economic Gains from the West Philippine Sea program was launched last year. We had a soft launch last June 12, where we traveled to Pag-asa Island to broaden the livelihood opportunities and productivity of fishers in the West Philippine Sea, where we have an initial funding of P80 million,” he said.

Briguera added that there are at least 385,000 fisherfolk around the West Philippine Sea.

He said fishery production in the West Philippine Sea has dropped by seven percent between 2021 and 2022 despite being one of the richest fishing grounds in the archipelago.

He noted that based on Philippine Statistics Authority data, production was down to 275,872 metric tons of fish in 2022, from 295,332 MT the previous year.

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