An official of the Bureau of Fisheries (BFAR) recently called attention to the fact that Palawan currently supplies 92 percent of round scad (galunggong) production in the Philippines, a fact that underscores the productivity of the province’s marine resources. The agency even suggests that Palawenyos should shift from its prevalent thinking that tourism is its main economic asset.

“Palawan produces 92 percent of galunggong production in the Philippines, yet you are not capitalizing on it,” BFAR Director Eduardo Gongona said in a talk in Coron this week.

It is important however to take this information in context. As Director Gongona observed, Palawan’s fisheries sector remains “inefficient” despite its volume of production, largely due to the quality and efficiency of the country’s commercial fishing sector. Its fisheries industry is not modernized. We should also acknowledge that its current practice contributes to the problem of overfishing, as evidenced by the prevalence of illegal fishing practices and weak enforcement mechanisms.

Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority data released in March this year, the province’s gross domestic production (GDP) is still fueled largely by its industry, particularly mining and quarrying sectors. In 2017, mining and quarrying contributed 41.9 percent of the GDP, followed by services which include the tourism sector at 7.1 percent. The sector of agriculture, hunting, forestry, and fishing (AHFF) only had a 6.8 percent GDP contribution. That year, fisheries even dipped downward by 0.1 percent.

There is an opportunity to make Palawan’s fisheries sector more efficient and productive, certainly while ensuring its sustainability by protecting coastal marine habitats that are critical to fisheries productivity. It is a development strategy that requires political will and commitment on the part of local governments – perhaps the same political will that is enjoyed by tourism.

BFAR’s recommendation to brand Palawan as the country’s galunggong capital is worth noting if only to highlight the fact that it has enormous fisheries resources that the province can harness to develop its economy.

There is a need to take stock of the erstwhile minuscule contribution of Palawan’s fisheries sector to the province’s overall GDP and to find sustainable ways to improve this contribution, with the necessary resources available to the government being put to bear.