TACLOBAN CITY, Jan. 19 (PNA) -– The Philippine government and the United Nations–International Fund for Agricultural Development (UN-IFAD) is investing PHP1.86 billion for the Fisheries Coastal Resources and Livelihood (FishCORAL) Project in 1,098 poverty-stricken communities.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and UN-IFAD officials launched the project in this city on Tuesday for implementation in 11 target coastal areas in Bicol Region, Eastern Visayas, Caraga Region, and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

BFAR Director Asis Perez said the project will intensify measure to lessen poverty incidence in fishing communities and rally the protection and conservation of coastal resources in selected areas.

“Fishermen are among the poorest groups in the country with a poverty incidence of 41.4 in 2009. This is due to low coastal productivity, fish stock depletion, pollution, over fishing, poor access to basic services, high population density, inadequate post-harvest support, and lack of alternative source of income,” Perez explained.

FishCORAL covers Ragay Gulf, Asid Gulf, and Albay Gulf in Bicol Region; Leyte Gulf, Matarinao Bay, Silago-Cabalian waters, and Maqueda Bay in Eastern Visayas; Butuan Bay and Lianga-Bislig-Hinatuan Bays in Caraga; and Ilana Bay and Sulu Sea in ARMM.

The project covers the provinces of Camarines Sur, Masbate, Albay, Sorsogon, Eastern Samar, Samar, Southern Leyte, Leyte, Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, and Sulu.

For Leyte Gulf alone, fish biomass at present is 1.72 metric tons (mt) per square kilometer, way low than the sustainable 10 mt fish biomass per square kilometer, according to BFAR Regional Director Juan D. Albaladejo.

The project aims to reduce poverty in the target areas by at least five percent from the mean poverty incidence of 42 percent.

“Let us protect the coastal water, have enough fish biomass, which would result to better production and higher income,” Perez said.

He cited the intensified protection at Visayan Sea, which resulted to increase in fish population from 2.3 mt to more than four mt per square kilometer.

FishCORAL has three inter-related components – coastal resource management, livelihood development, and project management and coordination.

Interventions include governance and legislation, law enforcement, community-based planning, resource rehabilitation, infrastructure and equipment support, organizational strengthening, and promotion of micro-enterprise.

The IFAD loan, estimated at USD29.95 million, will cover 68 percent of the total project cost. The IFAD grant of USD0.69 million will cover two percent of the total funds.

The Department of Agriculture-BFAR will finance 14 percent of the total project costs. Contribution from the local government units and community beneficiaries are estimated at 16 percent of the overall cost.

“There will be a monitoring and evaluation of all projects to see its impact and ensure that funds are being used for intended beneficiaries,” said Benoit Thierry, UN-IFAD country manager. (PNA)