Reviving Bangus Farms and Fishing Industry Hit by Typhoons

By Henrylito D. Tacio

Dagupan, 11 September 2009. As super typhoons ravage the Philippine archipelago with an annual average of  five to six, the farming and fishing industries take a blow. In Pangasinan, the typhoons' devastation cause the destruction of fish pens, fish cages and other fish traps used in raising bangus.  

Typhoons are tropical storms with sustained winds of 120 to185 kilometers per hour.  It becomes a super typhoon when its maximum sustained winds exceed 185 kilometers per hour.

One of the most recent one was “Emong” (international name: Chan-hom), which hit the northern part of Luzon last May 7. Every year, typhoons cause a lot of damage to houses, economic losses and even deaths.  Pangasinan suffered P1.12 billion damages on fishery alone, according to Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).  Millions of pesos worth of bangus swam out to the sea as fish pens and cages, many of them located along the Caquipotan Channel between Bolinao and Anda towns are destroyed.

“Sual, Anda and Bolinao normally supply up to 62% of the bangus sold in Navotas and Malabon trading centers, the sources of markets in Luzon,” said Nestor Domenden, Region 1 Director of BFAR. Pangasinan's  bangus industry contributes daily about 120 to 140 metric tons to Metro Manila.  There was unpredictable bangus supply two to three weeks after the typhoon.

Needed Bangus Fry

To help rehabilitate the bangus industry of the province, Domenden urged the government to provide 50 % of the fry requirements of the affected bangus growers for free.  The same mode of assistance was adopted when Typhoon Cosme inflicted heavy damage on the bangus-producing areas in the second and fourth districts of Pangasinan.

About 11 million pieces of Sarangani bangus fry were dispersed to the affected bangus growers.  The deliveries were done in three batches: July 28, August 1, and August 12.  

The bangus fry were sourced out from the Finfish Hatcheries, Incorporated (FHI), whose hatchery is located in Lun Masla, Malapatan in Sarangani Province.   Of the 11 million bangus fry, one million of them were donated by FHI.

Rene B. Bocaya, the FHI national sales manager said, “As an input provider company, we also have the responsibility to support our fellow stakeholders in order for us  weather all challenges.” 

FHI’s tag line is: “Sarangani Fry - Kasama mo sa Pag-asenso.”  Its literal translation is, “Sarangani Fry – your partner in progress.”  As Bocaya points out, “As an input provider company, we also have the responsibility to support our fellow stakeholders in order for us  weather all challenges.” 

BFAR allocated the funding for the rehabilitation through the support of assistance of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, who flew in to Bolinao just two days after the typhoon struck. 

Local government units (LGUs) were tapped to select the recipients through the municipal agriculture department.  Recipients were bangus fish pond, pen and cage owners from La Union, Alaminos and Dagupan City, the towns of Infanta, Bolinao, Labrador, Sual, Bugallon, Calasiao, San Fabian, Mangaldanan and Binmaley.

During the dispersal, Domenden said that the only requirement they request from their beneficiaries was to make the necessary report to their local agriculture office the volume of bangus harvested.  “We need the report,” he said, “in order for us to know how effective the relief program is.”

According to Bocaya, the bangus fry can grow into fingerlings in 30 to 45 days.   Within 4 to 5 months, the fingerlings can be harvested from the ponds, pens, or cages. 

Rehabilitating the Bangus Industry

“Until recently, the country has contributed around 55 % share of the world bangus production,” claims the Laguna-based Philippine Council for Aquaculture and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD).

The total bangus supply in the Philippines is steadily increasing.  From 210,882 metric tons in 1990, bangus production went up to 360,018 metric tons in 2004.  Based on current trends (at 11 percent annual growth), the PCAMRD is expecting bangus production to ascend to 451,000 metric tons in 2010. 

“Bangus has always been the most important species cultured in the Philippines in terms of area and production,” admits Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero, who used to be the PCAMRD director and the man who popularized tilapia production and consumption in the country. 

The Philippines is one of the top bangus producers in the world, along with Indonesia and Taiwan.  

Bangus Festival

Dagupan, which hosts the Bangus Festival, showcased over 24,000 pieces of grilled bangus stretching to two kilometers.  That event landed a mention as holder for the longest barbecue in the Guinness Book of World Records.