| Economics of the Philippine Milkfish Resource System (1982) |
|III. The transformation sub-system: cultivation to market size in fishponds|
3. The socio-economic/cultural environment
Culturally, fish is important in the diet of the Filipino. Fishing and fish farming are, therefore, important activities in their way of life. Fish farming in the Philippines as it is practiced today has evolved over time under essentially laissez-faire conditions. In general, it is observed that most of the brackish-water ponds in the country have been developed haphazardly without the benefit of sound technical planning or engineering advice. Any person having access to a suitable piece of land can develop it into a fishpond. Because ponds are often haphazardly designed, production costs are high and yields and net returns are low. This economically "fragile" picture of milkfish production is further exacerbated by the periodic occurrence of typhoons, as discussed earlier.
Although it does not involve large areas, milkfish farmers commonly squat on government land. Another form of squatting which is common is the extension of milkfish ponds on to government property by construction of dams across small rivers, creeks, and waterways. This illegal encroachment on waterways which are under government jurisdiction often causes flooding in the vicinity. The lack of law enforcement in the past and misunderstanding as to which government body is responsible for administering government land for milkfish production have partly contributed to this illegal diking and squatting. Measures to remedy the situation have now been instituted.
Philippine milkfish ponds are in various stages of development, which due to the acid sulphate soil problem cited earlier, greatly influence yields. A useful categorization distinguishes established ponds which are more than 20 years old, developed ponds which are between 5 and 20 years old, and newly developed ponds which are less than 5 years old. In Indonesia, tambaks or milkfish ponds are not stocked with milkfish for the first 3 to 4 years.43 However, according to Liang and Huang,44 tidal land can evolve to become very productive, with annual yields reaching 2,000 kg per hectare per year within about 5 years.
Another feature of the local milkfish industry is that very few of the milkfish farmers keep any semblance of records on inputs used and production activities performed. Those few that keep records only have information on the total costs of inputs purchased. Without properly kept records, it is not easy to evaluate the performance of the production operations. Because records are an invaluable aid for sound management, it is obvious that a large percentage of Philippine milkfish farmers are not aware of the value of management in production.45 As a result, most of them do not have any idea whether or not it pays to use inputs such as fertilizers in milkfish culture. Low levels of supplementary input use are corroborated by Shang's finding41 that stocking materials, interest, labour, and marketing were the most important cost items, and accounted for about 82 per cent of the total production cost, leaving only 18 per cent for other items such as supplementary inputs.
Although the Philippine milkfish industry has been generally characterized as largely stagnant with perennial low yields, nonetheless, several of the milkfish producers contacted for interview are among the relatively well-to-do members of their communities. A similar observation was also made by Villaluz 27 years ago.46 In iloilo, it is said that the fishpond industry is a rich man's business.8 There is no doubt that Philippine milkfish producers are also among the more educated group of fish farmers in the Asian region. In fact, many fishpond operators are either engineers or legal or medical practitioners; less than 2 per cent have no education. More than a third are college educated, but these tend to be concentrated in lloilo Province. In the other provinces, milkfish farmers are mostly elementary and high school graduates.
There are more than 30 fishfarm producer associations federated at the national level, whose membership is drawn largely from the more successful and educated fishpond operators. Membership in the association is voluntary. Benefits of membership are varied depending on the degree of member participation and leadership. For the most part these associations make representation to the government and serve as a source of information and meeting place for their members. Buying and selling on behalf of members is only practiced in a few associations. The most common service is bulk purchase of inputs such as fertilizers.