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    Seaweed Industry Development agency for Bangsamoro pushed

    Bangsamoro Transition Authority Parliament Bill No. 84 (also known as the Seaweed Industry Development Act,) seeks the creation of the Seaweed Industry Development Authority in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to support an industry that has already proven to be one of the region's strengths. 

    Member of Parliament (MP) Amir Mawallil filed the proposed measure before the Bangsamoro Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, March 16. 

    "We know that there is an ongoing health crisis brought by the pandemic. But it is also important to note that we should not waste time. We need to craft economic policies that will help spur the region's economic growth and generate employment. We also know that seaweed is one of the region's economic strengths that we can leverage. We must invest in this," MP Mawallil stressed.

    Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that seaweed farming in the Bangsamoro region in 2019 yielded 696,765.74 metric tons, with an estimated market value of P6 billion. This regional aquaculture crop contributed a significant 45 percent of the total seaweed production of the Philippines in the same year. In 2020, the seaweed output of the country contributed 33 percent of total fisheries production.

    The seaweed aquaculture sector in the Philippines is highly export-oriented, with its bulk being exported to the United States, European countries and China. The Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines said other countries which buy sizeable volumes of seaweeds from the Philippines include Mexico, Australia, Russia, Indonesia, South Korea, Argentina, Vietnam, UAE, Chile, Malaysia, and Thailand.

    Seaweed is used in several products: As thickening/gelling for food products; in meat processing, particularly in sausages and processed fish; clarifying alcohol; pharmaceuticals and dentistry; the health and beauty industries; soil fertilizers; textile printing; as a substrate in bacterial cultures; water filtration; and livestock and fishery diets. Its use as a source of biofuel is also being explored and developed.

    The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources or BFAR reported that seaweed industry in the country employs between 100,000 and 120,000 people, where 90% are seaweed farmers and the rest are seaweed processors and traders. The country’s major producer is the Bangsamoro region’s Tawi-Tawi province. 

    The Seaweed Industry Development Act is primarily a recognition of the enormous potential the industry holds—not only in developing regional communities, but in positioning the BARMM as a competitive partner in building the Philippine economy. This bill seeks to promote and advance what is viewed as traditional/cultural when addressing modern-day issues on productivity, food security, job creation, and poverty alleviation.

    The creation of the Seaweed Industry Development Authority (SIDA) through this measure is an assurance that enough attention will be given to the sector’s development.

    The proposed SIDA will take the development of the seaweed industry using a multifaceted approach through plans and policies, cooperation, promotion of the sciences, and infrastructure development, as well as economic and social development.

    As envisioned in the bill, the SIDA would take the lead in formulating plans, managing of facilities, organizing communities and cooperatives, and facilitating human resource development. The bill also emphasizes the importance of scientific research and micro-financing for the development of the industry.

    The principal office of the SIDA will be located strategically in Tawi-Tawi Province, which is the largest producer of seaweed in the country. 

    The SIDA will have a policy-making board led by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Agrarian reform and with the Minister of Science and Technology as Vice-chair. Its members will be composed of the Minister of Trade, Investment and Tourism; the Director General of the Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority; representatives from seaweed farmers’ organization; and representatives from the seaweed processing and export sector.
     
    The development of the seaweed industry will form an integral part of the Bangsamoro Regional Development Plan.

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