Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperatives: Empowered Partners of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Towards Fish Sufficiency and Food Security

The widespread poverty of the fisherfolk can be traced to a marketing system controlled by middlemen who usually operate buying stations and consumer stores where the fishers sell their fish catch and buy the goods they need. The fishers are poor because they sell cheap and buy high so their expenses are greater than their income. On the other hand, the middlemen are rich because they buy cheap and sell high so their income is greater than their expenses.

To make ends meet, fishers are forced to borrow from middlemen for their consumption and fishing expenses at onerous terms that only drive them deep in debt. When their borrowings have grown big, the middlemen limit their exposure fearing bad debts. Without sufficient financing, the fishers cannot maximize their fishing efforts. This leads naturally to production decline.

Some fisherfolk resort to illegal fishing. This bite-the-bullet approach, however, destroys the fishing grounds that leads to further production decline. The resulting insufficient supply is remedied thru importation growing steadily over the years. In 1990, the country imported 196,115 metric tons valued at US$75.128M. By 2019, this has jumped to 506,192 metric tons worth US$748.702M.

Philippine population grew from 61,895,160 in 1990 to 108,116,615 in 2019 for a 75% increase while fishery product importation is a whopping 996% growth over the same period. Increasing importation is one of the causes of decreasing production that maybe traced to a middlemen-controlled marketing and pricing system detrimental to the fisherfolk and the industry.

To negate control of middlemen, Section 58.f. and g. of the Philippine Fisheries Code (RA 8550) enacted in 1998, mandates the “development and strengthening of marketing facilities, including the pricing system, with emphasis on collective marketing and the elimination of middlemen and increased participation of cooperatives…”

In 2018, Sagip Saka Act (RA 11321) was also enacted “…to achieve sustainable modern agriculture and food security by helping the agricultural and fishing communities to reach their full potential, increasing farmer’s and fishermen’s income, and bridging gaps through public-private partnerships…” Sagip Saka Act by its very name is admission that our agriculture and fisheries is sinking and drowning. And the solution imposed by this law is thru building of entrepreneurship culture and public-private partnership.

Likewise, Section 3.d. and e. of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 (RA 8435) calls for the “…horizontal and vertical integration, expansion and consolidation of fisheries activities thru the organization of cooperativesto promote people empowerment by strengthening… cooperatives…and by establishing and improving mechanisms and processes for their participation in government decision-making and implementation.”

Furthermore, Department of Agriculture Administrative Order (DAAO) No. 27 series of 2020 laments that “…no formal, comprehensive and holistic government initiative and assistance program on farm and fisheries clustering and consolidation has heretofore been adopted and implemented in the national level.” DAAO 27 seeks to encourage small farmers and fishers “…to adopt the strategy of clustering and consolidation of their production, processing and marketing activities as community business enterprises…” Cooperatives are the ideal community business enterprises.

All these legislations and Administrative Order points to cooperatives operating as community business enterprises adopting the strategy of clustering and consolidation in their production, processing and marketing activities (DAAO 27), partnering with government in decision-making and implementation (RA 8435) to build a culture of entrepreneurship among farmers and fishers (RA 11321) and set up collective marketing system to eliminate middlemen thru the increased participation of cooperatives (RA 8550).

Billions of livelihood projects dispersed to fisherfolk associations over many decades seemingly did not lead to increased production and improvement of the fisherfolk lives. One obvious reason is that these projects are treated as dole-outs that disappear in no time at all. Charities should be left to social welfare agencies like the DSWD but not to development agencies like the DA-BFAR.

Associations are not the right organization to partner with government in implementing development projects. By their very nature, they are non-stock, non-profit corporations. They are not designed for business. In fact, associations only have leaders but no management committee tasked with running day-to-day business. That is why they are usually inactive and rise from the dead like Lazarus, only when a livelihood project is coming. After dividing the project among the members, with the officers usually getting the lion’s share, the association again goes into a coma and rise when another project is about to be doled-out.

Pursuant to Section 86 of the Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines (RA 11232) enacted in 2018: “A nonstock corporation is one where no part of its income is distributable as dividends to its members, trustees, or officers: Provided that any profit which may be obtained incidental to its operations shall, whenever necessary or proper, be used for the furtherance of the purpose or purposes for which the corporation was organized…”

Section 6.c. of the Bureau of Internal Revenue Memorandum Order 20-2013 also provides: “All the net income or asset of the association must be devoted to its purpose/s and no part of its income or asset accrues to or benefits any member or specific person. Any profit must be plowed back and must be devoted or used altogether for the furtherance for the purpose/s for which the association was organized.”

And pursuant to Section 93 of RA 11232: “In case of dissolution, assets received and held by the corporation…shall be transferred or conveyed to one (1) or more corporations, societies or organizations engaged in activities in the Philippines substantially similar to those of the dissolving corporation…”

 Therefore, associations have no compelling incentives to run a project profitably as a community business enterprise because they are forbidden to benefit from the earnings. So, they would rather divide the projects among themselves and wait for the next dole out from government.

Livelihood projects should be run as a business so it will earn profits to ensure its continuity, growth and sustainability. Only thru this will it be able to fulfill its purpose of contributing to economic development. The ideal organization to manage livelihood projects are cooperatives which has a management team operating the cooperative as a community business enterprise on a day-to-day basis and sharing the earnings among shareholders, customers and the community. Thru cooperatives, there is shared prosperity, greater income and purchasing power for the greater number leading to inclusive economic growth.

It is for these reasons that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is organizing fisherfolk marketing cooperatives as mandated by various laws thru its Aquaculture Cooperatives Organizing Project (ACOP). BFAR envisions to set up marketing cooperatives in every coastal city/municipality. One Municipality One Cooperative (OMOC).

OMOC in Ilocano means NEST. ACOP desires to make these coops as spawning grounds or incubator nests eventually transforming into accelerators in developing Philippine fisheries toward self-sufficiency and food security. These OMOCs will serve as a nationwide network similar to the Zengyoren fishery cooperative movement of Japan and the Nong Hyup farmer cooperative movement of South Korea that helped propel these countries to impressive economic growth.

To intensify the formation of cooperatives nationwide, 58 BFAR personnel underwent trainings on cooperativism by the Department of Cooperatives of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in 2018 and 2019.

As of June 30, 2021, the following cooperatives were organized thru ACOP:

  1. Santa Ana Cagayan Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Sitio Pasiguit, San Vicente, Santa Ana, Cagayan

  1. Quinluban Islands Agutaya Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Sitio Edupey, Algeciras, Agutaya, Palawan

  1. Agutaya Fishermen Cooperative

       Bangcal, Agutaya, Palawan

  1. Cuyo Fishermen Cooperative

       Tenga-tenga, Cuyo, Palawan

  1. Northern Palawan Fishermen Cooperative

       Green Island, Roxas, Palawan

  1. Southern Palawan Fishermen Cooperative

       Sibaring, Bugsuk Island, Balabac, Palawan

  1. Bacacay Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Namanday Island, Bacacay, Albay

  1. Castilla Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Tomalaytay, Castilla, Sorsogon

  1. Sorsogon Seaweeds Producers Cooperative

       Peñafrancia, Sorsogon City

  1. Panay Aqua Farmers Consumer Cooperative

       Pawa, Panay, Capiz

  1. Estancia Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Gogo, Estancia, Iloilo

  1. Gigantes Island Federation of Fisherfolk Sector Fishermen Cooperative

       CFLC, Lantangan, Carles, Iloilo

  1. Sibunag-Nueva Valencia Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Alegria, Sibunag, Guimaras

  1. Mabini Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Poblacion, Mabini, Bohol

  1. Talibon Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Bansan Island, Talibon, Bohol

  1. Getafe Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Jandayan Island, Getafe, Bohol

  1. Medellin Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Poblacion, Medellin, Cebu

  1. Tabuelan Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Poblacion, Tabuelan, Cebu

  1. Alcantara Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Poblacion, Alcantara, Cebu

  1. Baroy Stakeholders and Fishermen Cooperative

       Baroy Dacu, Baroy, Lanao del Norte

  1. Maigo Fisherfolk and Farmers Cooperative

       Balagatasa, Maigo, Lanao del Norte

  1. Tubod Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Tangueguiron, Tubod, Lanao del Norte

  1. Lala Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Pacita, Lala, Lanao del Norte

  1. Hinatuan Fisherfolk and Farmers Marketing Cooperative

       Tidman, Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur

  1. Cagdianao Farmers and Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Cabungaan, Cagdianao, Dinagat Islands Province

7 other organizations are completing their capital build-up to be registered into cooperatives and are awaiting the conduct of Pre-Registration Seminar by the CDA. These organizations are:

  1. Dreamers Aquaculture Farmers Association

       Dummon, Quezon, Isabela

  1. Sanchez Mira Cagayan Fishpond Operators

       Namuac, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan

  1. Basco Batanes Integrated Fisherfolk Organizations

       Basco, Batanes

  1. Tiwi Seaweed Producer and Processors Association

       Nag, Tiwi, albay

  1. Caluya Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Semirara Island, Caluya, Antique

  1. Barobo Integrated Farmers and Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Poblacion, Barobo, Surigao del Sur

  1. Tigao Mananagat sa Lawod Association

       Tigao, Cortez, Surigao del Sur

3 Other cooperatives not organized by BFAR but assisted:

  1. Claveria Cagayan Fishermen Marketing Cooperative

       Taggat Norte, Claveria, Cagayan

  1. Simbuco Aqua Marine Multi-Purpose Cooperative

       P-3, Simbuco, Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte

  1. Sustainable Women’s Action for Mangrove Preservation

       and Protection Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SWAMPP MPC)

       Poblacion, Marihatag, Surigao del sur

Under Rule 24.3 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 10654 amending the Philippine Fisheries Code, DA-BFAR shall “Provide assistance in organizing/strengthening cooperatives…in coordination with the Cooperatives Development Authority…”

 

In fulfillment of Rule 24.3, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Cooperatives Development Authority (CDA) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on January 11, 2017 where the DA committed to “Ensure that cooperatives shall be given priority in the provision of support services by the DA relative to the implementation of its various programs and project.”

 

In compliance with this agreement, BFAR provided organizing, trainings and livelihood projects to the following cooperatives. Aside from these trainings the following projects were also provided:

  1. Claveria Cagayan Fishermen Cooperative

       Reefer van

       Training on Proper Fish Handling and Processing

       Post-Harvest Equipment for Fish Processing

  1. Quinluban Islands Agutaya Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       13 fiberglass bancas with 18HP Japan made engines

       20 tons of seaweed propagules and farm implements – P300,000

       Cooperative Managed Seaweeds Nursery Business Enterprise – P500,000

       Solar dryer/Warehouse/Storage Facility – P5 million

  1. Northern Palawan Fishermen Cooperative

       20 tons of seaweed propagules – P160,000

       Cooperative Managed Seaweeds Nursery Business Enterprise – P500,000

  1. Southern Palawan Fishermen Cooperative
  • tons of seaweeds propagules – P160,000

       5 tons of seaweed propagules – P50,000

Cooperative Managed Seaweeds Nursery Business Enterprise – P500,000

  1. Bacacay Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       1-ton Seaweed propagules – P20,000

       16.5 tons Seaweed propagules – P350,000

Cooperative Managed Seaweeds Nursery Business Enterprise – P500,000

Sea Urchins Processing Facility and Equipment & Materials – P1.2 million

  1. Castilla Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Seaweed Farm Implements P120,000

       3 tons seaweed propagules P60,000

Cooperative Managed Seaweeds Nursery Business Enterprise – P500,000

  • tons of Seaweed propagules P430,000
  1. Sorsogon Seaweeds Producers Cooperative

       25×25 meters gracillaria seaweed nursery

  • each 10 x 10 meters gracillaria seaweed nursery for members divided into 3 groups
  1. Mabini Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Cooperative Managed Seaweeds Nursery Business Enterprise – P500,000

       Kitchen utensils for seaweed processing into noodles, crackers, etc.

       Fish Cage for Milkfish Production P1.2M

  1. Talibon Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Cooperative Managed Seaweeds Nursery Business Enterprise – P500,000

       Fish Cage for Milkfish Production P1.2M

  1. Getafe Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Cooperative Managed Seaweeds Nursery Business Enterprise – P500,000

       Fish Cage for Milkfish Production P1.2M

  1. Lala Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Fishpen for Milkfish Production – P 4 million

  1. Baroy Stakeholders and Fishermen Cooperative

       Fishpen for Milkfish Production – P 4 million

  1. Maigo Fisherfolk and Farmers Cooperative

Fishpen for Milkfish Production – P 2 million

  1. Tubod Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

       Fishpen for Milkfish Production – P 2 million

  1. Hinatuan Fisherfolk and Farmers Marketing Cooperative

       Seaweed Farm Implements

       4 tons seaweed propagules

       Cooperative Managed Seaweeds Nursery Business Enterprise – P500,000

       Norwegian Fishcage for Bangus Production – P1.3 million

  1. Cagdianao Farmers and Fisherfolk Marketing Cooperative

Cooperative Managed Seaweeds Nursery Business Enterprise – P500,000

 

BFAR has also organized the Fisherfolk Cooperatives Alliance of the Philippines (FishCAP) where all the primary cooperatives it organized will become eventual members. Its registration papers as a federation is pending with the CDA since 2020 and cannot be registered because of the moratorium on registration of cooperative federations issued since 2019 (CDA Bod Resolution 536 S-2019) which has not been lifted as of this writing.

 

FishCAP will act as marketing consolidator to bring the fish from the fisher to the consumer without middlemen in between. Primary cooperatives based in the fishing communities will buy the fish then bring it to FishCAP in Metro Manila who will then sell this to fish retailers who will sell this to consumers. These fish retailers will be eventually formed into the Metro Manila Fish Retailers Cooperative (MMFRC).

 

In effect, there will be 3 layers of cooperatives bringing the fish from the fisher to the consumer: 1) the community based primary cooperatives, 2) FishCAP and 3) MMFRC. These 3 layers will supplant the 5 layers of middlemen between the fisher and the consumer: 1) the Village Buyer; 2) the consolidator/biahero; 3) the Consignacion/Broker. 4) the volume buyer or labasero; and 4) the Fish retailer/vendor.

 

Once this trading system is perfected, they will be replicated in other population centers across the country.

 

FishCAP also envisions to export fishery products directly to consumer cooperatives in other countries by invoking the universally recognized 6th cooperative principle: Cooperation among Cooperatives. One of the major services of the International Cooperatives Alliance is facilitating cooperatives from developing countries to export directly to cooperatives in developed countries.

 

In this way, FishCAP will export fish directly to consumers in other countries by-passing international trading cartels in the process. Should this materialize, the sales value of the country’s fishery export will increase tremendously. Its impact on our economy will also be huge.

 

The bureau also provides technical assistance to municipal, commercial and distant water (international) fishing sectors, and other stakeholders on fishing technologies including fishing gears and methods, boats, equipment and other matters relating to fishing technology.

For the past years, the bureau focused on capacitating groups of municipal fisherfolks on construction, installation and management of Lambaklad (Set Net) and Payao (Fish Aggressive Device).

On programs concerning post-harvest, BFAR provides extension services such as: 1) Capability Building trainings on fish processing technologies and seafood safety programs; 2) Provision of technical advisory services; 3) Conduct of technology demonstration on fish value-added products; and 4) Distribution of IEC materials related to fish processing technologies and seafood safety.

To avail the services, the requesting party may send a letter to nearest Field Office of BFAR, specifying the type of service being requested.

Another thrust of the bureau is to promote and support the Philippine fisheries industry through marketing assistance, enterprise development, and credit and investment facilitation services.

Marketing Assistance Services provides assistance to various stakeholders, including, fisherfolk and industry players, through the various programs and activities such as Fisheries Market Matching (FMM), which provides market linkage and partnership with fishery based suppliers and buyers locally and abroad. There are two types of FMM approach: 1) Organized FMM (Pro-active Approach) wherein BFAR organized a market matching activity to assist fishery-based buyers and suppliers in finding market/s for their fishery products; and 2) Technical Assistance on FMM (Reactionary Approach) wherein fisheries stakeholders approach BFAR to seek assistance in finding potential buyer/s of supplier/s for their commodity requirements. Assistance may be rendered through telephone call, fax, e-mail, and walk-in clients.

Any companies or individuals that have legitimate and existing business who are in need of marketing assistance for their fishery products can avail of FMM assistance, as well as, those who are interested to establish their own fishery enterprise, and any local/foreign buyers looking for local/foreign suppliers and vice versa.

Enterprise Development Services includes the following programs and activities:

  • Assist in fisheries community organizing toward towards the establishment of marketing enterprise cooperatives;
  • Organize and participate in international and local trade fairs, exhibits, industry and investment for a that will showcase and promote the Philippine seafood products for the sustainability of the fisheries industry;
  • Develop technical fisheries trainings/seminars/workshops responsive to the training needs of the fisheries industry personnel;
  • Capacitate industry players and MSME’s towards entrepreneurial development-oriented sector;
  • Craft and/or assist in the formulation of policies related to fisheries enterprise development; and
  • Develop and disseminate IEC materials for product promotion in local and international trade fairs and expos.

As mandated by RA 10654, BFAR shall assist the municipal and small-scale commercial fisherfolk in accessing credit from financial institutions and implement capability programs for them. The Bureaus’ Credit Facilitation Services links the government and private credit and insurance institutions/entities as potential cooperating partners in extending credit services to fisherfolk. This service also provides trainings, orientations, seminars and technical assistance to fisherfolk borrowers to help them comply with the loan requirements to various credit windows and lending schemes offered by credit providers such as Government Financing Institutions (GFIs) and Micro Financing Institutions (MFIs). The beneficiaries of this program are fisherfolk and fishery-based cooperatives and organizations e.g., associations and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).  On the other hand, Investment Facilitation Services includes: conduct of industry and investment fora; provision of technical assistance on how to avail and comply with loan requirements of the financing institutions; monitoring and evaluation of the assisted borrowers; and provision of assistance on suitable investment programs for the beneficiaries.

The bureau’s most recent program, the KADIWA Oplan ISDA, was being made possible through the close coordination of BFAR with cooperatives/associations. This project was triggered by the heightened transportation and physical restriction due to Covid-19 pandemic and by the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF). Through the project, Metro Manila and other fish-deficient areas within NCR will be assured with steady supply of fish coming from fish-sufficient regions.

The BFAR RFOs are to identify fish suppliers in their respective areas, and these suppliers/cooperative/organization will enter into a supply agreement to concretize the price structure and commercial terms, specifications per species, packaging and weight, time of delivery, volume requirement per commodity and drop off points. The negotiated procurement-community participation mechanism as prescribed by Section 53(12) of the Republic Act No. 9184 shall be adopted in the procurement of fish by the Regional Fishery Offices from the suppliers.

BFAR-NCR in cooperation with LGUs are to pre-qualify cooperatives/associations that will participate in fish supply mobilization in Metro Manila and will be responsible for distribution, trading, and reselling of fish commodities at lower price and within the range of suggested prevailing retail price.

Cooperative members as a social enterprise can directly and indirectly benefit from the revenue generated through the project in addition to the training and skills upgrading that will be provided in areas such as traceability, food safety, and enterprise development, and their feedback and suggestions would help improve BFAR-RFOs implementation.  

This project will run for six (6) months given the funding provided and can be expanded in the succeeding years. Once a stable supply of cheaper fish sources is established, the RFO will start to gradually transfer all the coordination between suppliers to partner groups and LGUs. Monitoring and assessment activities will be conducted to evaluate the project’s success and lessons learned.

Mission critical for Philippine fisheries to reach its full potential is the development of a strong cooperative movement as done by Japan, South Korea and other developed countries. As Article 2 of the Philippine Cooperative Code states:

“It is the declared policy of the State to foster the creation and growth of cooperatives as a practical vehicle for promoting self-reliance and harnessing people power towards the attainment of economic development and social justice.

Towards this end, the government and all its branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities and agencies shall ensure the provision of technical guidance, financial assistance and other services to enable said cooperatives to develop into viable and responsive economic enterprises and thereby bring about a strong cooperative movement…”

The BFAR is implementing these laws for it truly believes that these are spot-on in saving our fisheries and attaining fish sufficiency and food security. It is leaving no stone unturned in establishing a strong fishery cooperative movement to make the fisherfolk self-reliant and empowered to attain economic development and social justice.

 

Prepared by:

Wilfredo F. Fajardo

               Interim Chairman, Fisherfolk Cooperatives Alliance of the Philippines (FishCAP)/

               Senior Management Specialist, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)

With additional inputs from various divisions of BFAR:

  1. Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture Division (IFAD)
  2. Fisheries Post-Harvest Technology Division (FPHTD)
  3. Capture Fisheries Division (CFD)
  4. Fisheries Industry Development and Support Services Division (FIDSSD)
  5. Fisheries Planning and Economics Division (FPED)

 Contact Persons:

Seaweed Commodity

Dennis S. Togonon

National Coordinator

Seaweed Development Program

(02)8372-5062

Regional Level

To:  Regional Director

Attention:  Chief of Fisheries Production and Support Services Division (FPSSD)

REGION FIELD OFFICES REGIONAL DIRECTOR CONTACT NUMBER EMAIL ADDRESS
NCR Dr. Hannibal M. Chavez [email protected]
CAR Lilibeth L. Signey (074) 445-8499
(074) 443-6716
[email protected]
I Rosario Segundina P. Gaerlan (072) 888-2693
(072) 888-1111
[email protected]
II Milagros C. Morales (078) 304-5331
(078) 304-4252
[email protected]
III Wilfredo M. Cruz (045) 455-0823
(045) 455-0877
[email protected]
CALABARZON Elizer S. Salilig (049) 544-8183

(02) 926-8616

[email protected];
MIMAROPA Ruben J. Jardin (043) 288-2005 [email protected]
V Nelson B. Bien (054) 477-7365
(054) 477-7443
[email protected];
VI Remia A. Aparri (033) 337-7650
(033) 336-6748
[email protected];
VII Allan I. Poquita (032) 256-2772
(032) 256-2773
[email protected];
VIII Dr. Juan D. Albaladejo (053) 321-1732
(053) 321-3152
[email protected]
IX Isidro M. Velayo, Jr. (062) 991-8192; (062) 993-2046 [email protected]
X Teodoro A. Bacolod, Jr. (088) 856-9610
(088) 856-5658
[email protected]
XI Raul C. Millana (082) 300-0989
(082) 227-1538
[email protected];
XII Alfeo G. Piloton (083) 552-9440
(083) 552-1328
[email protected];
XIII Dr. Nilo S. Katada (086) 231-9939
(086) 826-1814
caragabf[email protected];

 

Signed Copy Article for Coop