MANILA — Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II vowed on Sunday that he will take concrete steps to modernize the country’s fisheries system if he is elected in the May 9 national polls.

Roxas shared his plans during the first Presidential Debate organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in cooperation with GMA News and Public Affairs and the Philippine Daily Inquirer and held at the Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro City.

He said the first thing he would address would be the reduction of interest rates on loans so fishermen would be able to take home more of their hard-earned cash.

“Nauubos ang kanilang capital, ang kanilang kinikita, sa kababayad ng interest at amortisasyon sa kanilang inuutang,” he told thousands of attendees in the first-ever presidential debate in the country.

“Hindi pa nga sila nagpapalaot, iniutang na nila ang kanilang huhulihin. Kaya ang murang pautang ang isa sa pinakasusi para sa kanilang kaginhawahan,” he added.

Even Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who was tasked to rebut his statement, agreed to Roxas’ plan and even asked the former Interior and Local Government secretary’s permission to allow him to copy his platform if elected.

Next on Roxas’ agenda is the use of modern tools in fishing to achieve a more efficient harvest.

One of the concrete proposals which he introduced and is now being utilized by fishermen in Dagupan City, Pangasinan is the fish finder, which utilizes global positioning satellite (GPS) technology to increase fishermen’s catch, cutting operational costs and increasing their incomes. This was funded by the Aquino Administration’s Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB) program, he said.

“Hindi naaaksaya ang kanilang panahon at pera sa kabibili ng gasolina, derekta sila kung saan ‘yung mga isda, nahuhuli nila ito at naibebenta nila ng sariwa pa sa magandang presyo,” Roxas explained.

The veteran lawmaker also put emphasis on the construction of post-catch facilities like chillers and refrigerated vans, which would maintain the freshness of the fishermen’s catch.

“Post-catch facilities, ito ‘yung mga chiller, ito ‘yung mga packaging na mahalaga para mas mataas ang kikitain nila kumpara sa kinikita nila ngayon,” Roxas said. “Sa ngayon, limitado ang kanilang kita dahil nabubulok ang kanilang isda. ‘Pag nagkaroon ng mga post-catch facilities tulad ng mga chiller, tulad ng mga [refrigerated] vans, dadalhin ang kanilang huli sa mga pamilihan, gaganda ang kanilang kita.”

These would be complemented by the implementation of more infrastructure projects so fishermen would be able to bring their harvest to markets, Roxas said.

He stressed that this is all part of the “Daang Matuwid Bukid Revolution,” which will maximize the potentials of the Philippines’ agriculture and fisheries sectors to achieve maximum inclusive growth.

“That is our ‘Bukid Revolution,’ which would lead to improved earnings for our small farmers and fishermen,” Roxas said in his speech during his campaign’s official kick-off last Feb. 9.

“No one should be left behind in our march to a brighter future,” he stressed. Sammy Martin/PNA/