Philippines exporters lament seagrass harvest ban

Amy R. Remo Philippine Daily Inquirer 16 Jun 14;

MANILA, Philippines–Exporters from Central Luzon are lamenting a new Department of Agriculture policy, which is expected to result in unemployment and reduced export revenues for seagrass farmers in the region.

Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 250, which has banned the collection, harvesting, gathering, selling and exporting of brown algae and seagrass to preserve the marine ecosystem, is expected to adversely affect the farmers and other marginalized people who are highly dependent on this raw material for their livelihood.

Malou Balano, executive director of Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) Region 3, was quoted in a statement as saying that seagrass being harvested was being used as a material for Philippine handicrafts, as earlier recommended by the Department of Trade and Industry.

“The DTI supported this project. In fact, we have developed bags, slippers, baskets and other accessories that are being exported already,” Balano disclosed.

To address the impact of ban on selling and exporting seagrass on the export sector, Balano has proposed the identification of other or alternative areas, where seagrass can be legally cultivated and harvested or monitored.

The DA earlier explained that the restrictions set under FAO No. 250 were meant to protect the marine ecosystems as the uncontrolled harvesting of seaweeds and sea grass are resulting in the loss of shelter and destruction of the food base of aquatic organisms.

Violators of this order would be subject to a fine of P100,000 to P500,000 and imprisonment of two to 10 years.
Exemptions would be issued for those who target to collect, harvest and export seagrass for scientific and educational purposes.

Dennis Orlina, president of the Asean Handicraft Promotion and Development Association, however, noted that most of the seagrass that they use are “growing wildly as terrain species, not aquatic.”

“Just recently, many are growing at the lahar areas, north of Manila in Zambales, Pampanga, giving us cheap raw materials,” Orlina added.