Bureau of Fisheries to go after ‘galunggong’ imports
Imported “galunggong” meant only for manufacturers are making their way into local markets and are competing with local counterparts, but the understaffed Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is hard pressed to catch all of them.
BFAR Director Asis Perez said importers should be held liable for diverting their imported galunggong (round scad) and other fish to the markets.
The BFAR has the authority to go after the importers but not to penalize the vendors of the imported fish, he said.
According to Perez, most of the fish imported into the country are only meant for processing. Almost 800 tons of fish were imported into the country last year.
Not for wet markets
“[Importers] are supposed to use imported fish only in their own facilities, either they supply canneries or plants, or institutional buyers like restaurants. It is prohibited in their franchise or permit to sell or divert these to the wet markets,” he told reporters.
The purpose of this is to protect local producers, who may be forced to reduce their prices. But he noted that despite the diversion of imported fish to wet markets, it seems that the price of galunggong has not been affected much and has even been rising.
He said consumers won’t be able to differentiate between the imported and local galunggong, since they look alike.
Perez said that while the BFAR is tasked with going after importers who divert the items to wet markets, its 1,200 personnel are not enough to cover the vast areas under its jurisdiction.
“We have the responsibility, but capacity-wise, we are yet to fully capacitate our agency,” he said.
The BFAR needs at least 2,000 more personnel, especially considering that the total territorial water area of the country is 2.2 million square kilometers.
There are now proposals to put a cap on the amount of fish that would be allowed to be imported into the country, said Perez. At present, there is no limit to how much fish would be allowed to come in.
“As long as they pass phyto-sanitary inspection, they can come in. That is why we want to put a quota, a cap,” he said.
The importation of fish, which has come to include the poor man’s galunggong, was due to the depletion of supply in the country.
Asis said in a press conference yesterday that the country is showing signs of overfishing, though he was “not yet declaring we are overfished.”
But he said the BFAR has also mapped out projects for 2012 that would be expected to improve supply.
One is a massive mangrove reforestation program. The mangroves would provide both habitat and food to marine life, Perez said. He said BFAR plans to plant 100 million mangrove trees in three years, in partnership with state colleges and universities.
BFAR will also put up multi-species hatchery facilities where marine life could be brought to breed.
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