Senator Chiz Escudero said he is supporting calls for the creation of a Department of Fisheries.

“Every department should have a field of expertise. Fishing is one of our main sources of income that can compete with the exports of other countries. We should focus on this instead of just focusing on imports,” Escudero said during a recent visit to General Santos City for the 14th Tuna Festival.

The fisheries subsector accounted for 18.81 percent of the country’s total agricultural output.

Production reached 5.15 million metric tons in 2010 valued at P221.05 billion.

The Soccsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. in Southern Mindanao wants the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources upgraded into a separate department.

BFAR is an agency under the Department of Agriculture.

But Escudero said any move to create a new department will have to wait since the Aquino administration is undertaking a rationalization program to streamline the government bureaucracy.

“The creation of a Department of Fisheries is currently being pushed in Congress but the current thrust of President Aquino’s administration is to minimize the bureaucracy and red tape, and the only department the President has agreed to be created is the Department of Housing,” Escudero said.

“We have been spending a lot in various government agencies that sometimes do not really function at all. Maybe after we have rationalized all government agencies,” he added.

The proposed bill for the creation of a Department of Fisheries is still pending with the House of Representatives, and the Senate has yet to tackle the issue. But Escudero vowed to support the department’s creation if the proposed measure reaches the Senate.

According to the DA’s Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, the country’s fisheries subsector continued to register a decline in production.

Downtrends in production were observed for marine and inland fisheries as well as aquaculture. Gross receipts for fisheries amounted to P117.4 billion at current prices. This represented an increase of 3.07 percent from last year’s level.

At the same time, Escudero reiterated his support for the country’s tuna industry.

“As chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the tuna industry is one of our priorities. I want to make ensure that the country’s tuna industry gets full support and at the same time ensure that production is sustainable,” the senator said.

Tuna was the country’s top fisheries export in 2010, earning P15.12 billion.

Escudero pledged continued support for the tuna industry, as well as the fisheries subsector of the country’s agricultural sector.

“My late father (Rep. Salvador Escudero) was a former Agriculture secretary under two presidents. Agriculture is near and dear to me,” the senator added.