Pasil market fish safe; Traders urged to join coops
To boost sagging fish sales in Cebu City’s main fish market, mayor Michael Rama and fisheries bureau national director Asis Perez had their breakfast in the Pasil Fish Market.
Rama also suggested to fish traders to stay away from loan sharks and instead enlist in cooperatives or better yet organize a cooperative themselves.
Fish traders in the Pasil fish market have complained of drastic decrease in fish sales because of the public’s fears that fish sold there are contaminated by hazardous substances from the St. Thomas Aquinas oil spill and the thought that the fish may have fed on the remains of victims from the Aug. 16 tragedy.
Ruben Puza, a fish trader for 30 years said he usually sells 50 crates of tanguige (salmon). But after the Aug. 16 tragedy which has claimed more than 70 lives and with over 40 persons still missing, he could hardly sell 10 crates. A crate usually contains about 40 kilos of fish.
Wilma Soriso, a fish trader for more than 20 years said the Pasil market is usually full of marketgoers, but since the sea mishap, only fish traders, market workers and a handful of marketgoers are seen milling around.
Aggravating their problem, Soriso said is the piling up of their obligations to loan sharks who charge as much as 20 percent monthly interest.
“Guol kayo ko unsaon pag bayad sa akong giutangan. Dako kayo ko ug ikatapal ani hinoon. (I’m so worried how to pay my loan),” Soriso said.
Fish traders like Soriso pay on a daily basis to loan sharks, popularly known as “bombay.”
Chariz Pilar, a fish vendor had no less than mayor Rama and director Asis of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) who flew in from Manila, as patrons to prove that it is safe to eat seafood bought in the Pasil Fish Market.
Pilar clarified that fish they sell are from Masbate, Bantayan and Zamboanga.
Joining Rama and Asis were vice mayor Edgardo Labella, councilor Hanz Abella and Raquel Arce, department head of the city’s Prevention Restoration Order and Beautification Enhancement (Probe) team.
They ate grilled bangus, squid, shrimp, kinilaw (fish salad), tinola (fish soup), and Cebuano delicacy linarang (fish soup in coconut milk).
“Fish by nature are very sensitive to oil and do not eat humans,” Arce said.
Rama and Labella encouraged the fish traders to do away with loan sharks and instead invest in organizing a cooperative or avail of the loan services of cooperatives that offer lower interest rates.
Cooperatives, Labella said are not profit-oriented but work primarily for the economic upliftment of its members. Cooperatives do not call earnings from loans profits, but consider it as surplus on the cost of delivering financial services. Members of cooperatives who avail of the loan services of cooperatives are entitled to dividends and patronage refunds.
Cooperatives are under the regulation of the Cooperative Development Authority.
The problem, Rama noted is that despite the presence of cooperatives in the market, fish traders do not join, and fall prey to loan sharks who release money without the usual paperwork. In the end, he says, the fish vendors’ income is eaten up by usurious interest rates.
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