Cartel behind high fish prices in Bohol
TAGBILARAN CITY — Boholanos had already complained about the high prices of fish in the province as early as 2017, with the clamor leading to investigations led by the provincial board which later uncovered the presence of a fish cartel operating in Bohol.
Benjie Oliva, the former administrator of the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) who worked with fisheries’ cooperatives in Bohol, revealed that a cartel has been dictating the prices of fish sold in the province.
Oliva cited a 2017 study of the Department of Agriculture (DA) which confirmed that a group of fish suppliers was working to maintain prices at a high level and to restrict competition.
“The government should address the business monopoly in Bohol by providing an enabling policy for opening competition from other business players in the country,” Oliva said.
Provincial Board Member Tomas Abapo Jr. was among the officials who investigated the presence of a fish cartel in Bohol. The investigations, however, did not lead to any policy or legislation, especially with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
He said Boholano fishermen also preferred to sell their catch in nearby Cebu, resulting in the reduction supply sold in Bohol’s public markets.
With the reduced supply, vendors are forced to increase the prices of fish in the public markets, Abapo said.
No more stalls
Bohol Gov. Aris Aumentado on Tuesday ordered the suspension of trips to Panglao’s Virgin Island while an investigation is being conducted over the alleged overpricing of seafood sold to tourists there.
A group of 13 tourists recently complained they were charged P26,100 for the seafood that they bought from local vendors during a recent trip.On Wednesday, vendors in all 18 makeshift stalls on Virgin Island’s sandbar removed their structures and were no longer allowed to return.
To help displaced vendors, the Panglao Municipal Tourism Council (PMTC) recommended to the local government to hold a “night market” at Panglao plaza where the vendors can sell their products.
“To be fair and just, affected vendors shall be able to continuously sell whatever perishable stock [they have] on hand,” said PMTC in a statement.
Aumentado said the province would look into the issue and come up with solutions on how to arrive at reasonable prices of seafood in Bohol.
“We are now investigating the possibility of having a fish cartel here. We will have an actual plan and will address this soon. We need to fix this because it’s embarrassing,” he said.
While the local government of Panglao has the primary jurisdiction over Virgin Island, Aumentado said the provincial government would step in to ensure that there would be balance and harmony in the enforcement of environment protection laws, tourism standards, and the welfare of all concerned, including tourists, vendors and the public.
The 2017 government investigation revealed that the price of fish in Bohol was higher by P50 a kilo compared to other provinces.
Former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, in 2018, launched the Bohol Fish Market and Tienda program to address the price manipulation in the local market.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.