MANILA, Philippines — Prohibiting small fish vendors from selling salmon and pompano is “anti-poor,” Senator Raffy Tulfo said on Tuesday.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) earlier said that selling the fish in wet markets and grocery stores is restricted under Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) No. 195, which has been there for over two decades.
Salmon and pompano, however, may be consumed in hotels and restaurants only, said BFAR.
“Marami ang nagulat nang lumabas sa balita na pinagbabawal na ng BFAR ang pagtinda sa merkado ng salmon at pampano,” Tulfo said in his privilege speech during the plenary session.
(Many were surprised when news came out that BFAR does not allow the sale of salmon and pompano in markets.)
He added that both sellers and consumers are affected by the sale ban.
“Mabenta ang salmon at pampano dahil bukod sa malasa na ito, abot-kaya pa sa mga mamimili. Kaya naman nangamba ang mga maliliit at kawawang mga tindera na umaasa sana sa pagkakakitaan nila sa pagtitinda ng mga isda na ito,” said Tulfo.
(Salmon and pompano are popular because aside from their tastiness, they are also affordable. That’s why small fish vendors are anxious since they rely on their earnings from these fish.)
“Nabigla rin ang mga mamimili na nais makapaghain ng mga pagkaing ito sa Pasko… Ang mga mayayaman na lang na may perang makakain sa mga hotel at restaurant ang pwede lang makakain ng mga isda na ‘to or kung gusto mo makakain nito, ‘yung mga delata na lang ang pwede mong bilhin. This is anti-poor,” he continued.
(Consumers who want to serve these fish for Christmas were also surprised… Only rich people who can afford hotels and restaurants can eat these fish. If you want to eat it, you can buy it in cans. This is anti-poor.)
Tulfo asked the basis of BFAR’s actions and cited the administrative order.
“According to FAO 195, the importation of fish and fishery products shall be allowed only when certified as necessary by the Secretary in order to achieve food security taking into consideration public welfare and safety, in consultation with the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council,” he said.
“Pero may exception po na nilagay ang (But an exception was provided by) BFAR sa (in) FAO 195: The importation of fresh/chilled/frozen fish and fishery products for canning and processing purposes including importation undertaken by institutional buyers does not require such certification,” he went on.
Tulfo pointed out that the regulation and campaign should be conducted in ports, in coordination with the Bureau of Customs.
He further asked why the selling of salmon and pompano will be stopped and not other imported fishes.
“Is someone trying to boost the sale of other imported fish na ‘di na mabenta (won’t sell)?” the senator raised.
Senator Francis Tolentino, meanwhile, quizzed if it is time to overhaul BFAR, to which Tulfo agreed.
“Tama po kayo, Senator Tolentino. Pagsisibakin na siguro ‘yung mga tao diyan sa BFAR,” the sponsor said.
(You are right, Senator Tolentino. BFAR officials should be removed.)
Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, on the other hand, asked BFAR to submit an explanation on the 22-year delayed implementation and rationale of the ban.