The FLA (acronym for Fishpond Lease Agreement) is a system that governs the lease of public lands for fishpond development. It is an agreement entered into by and between the Secretary [of the Department of Agriculture] and a qualified applicant for the use of developed public fishpond areas (FAO 197-1 series of 2012).

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), an agency under the Department of Agriculture (DA), is responsible for the issuance of FLA to qualified Filipino individual or fisherfolk cooperatives/associations for a period of 25 years.

The entire process on the issuance of FLA starts from the submission of the Client’s application with complete requirements to the BFAR Regional Office that has jurisdiction on the fishpond area. The concerned BFAR Regional Office evaluates the submitted documents and conducts ocular inspection by the Regional and Provincial Fisheries Officers (PFOs). If qualified, the application is endorsed to BFAR Central Office for further review by the Fisheries Regulatory and Licensing Division (FRLD), then endorsed to the Department of Agriculture for review by the Legal Officers who in turn forward it to the DA Secretary for final action. The endorsement of BFAR Central Office and the final approval of the DA Secretary on Client’s FLA application will heavily rely on the reports and recommendations of the Regional/Provincial Fisheries Officers. The grounds for cancellation or termination of the Agreement include non-compliance with the terms and conditions of the FLA and case of AUU (Abandoned, Undeveloped, Underutilized) fishponds.

Non-payment of rentals, cancellation of contracts, unutilized and abandoned areas are just among the many problems of the FLA Program in the Philippines. Consequently, during the NFRDI Governing Board (GB) Special Meeting held last January 9, DA Secretary William Dar directed NFRDI to work closely with BFAR to conduct a comprehensive inventory of the issued FLAs in the country. Data that will be gathered from this inventory will provide information to improve the FLA Program and to conceptualize appropriate policy on fisheries.

Thus, as an immediate response to the call of Secretary Dar, NFRDI convened a meeting with BFAR last January 20. In the said meeting, NFRDI and BFAR committed to work together for the improvement of the FLA Program in the country.

After studying the FLA policies and its process, including updates on the use of Aquafarm Registration (AquaR System) as a tool for the inventory of FLA and non-FLA areas, both agencies agreed to create a Technical Working Group (TWG). The TWG’s primary concern shall be to monitor the FLA implementation and address the issues afflicting the program. It was also agreed that a Sub-Committee will be identified and tasked on the management of FLA fees to facilitate remittance to NFRDI Special Accounts. Under the law, rentals from FLAs shall be remitted to NFRDI and other qualified research institutions for use in aquaculture research development (Section 22 of FAO 197-1 s. 2012).

As of this writing, the proposal on the Assessment of the FLA Program in the Philippines is being revised after its presentation to the GB during the 2nd NFRDI GB Meeting held on March 11, 2020. (Ma. Salvacion R. Ferrer)