Fisheries body wants gov't to run after illegal importers instead of wet market vendors

Ramon Royandoyan - Philstar.com
Fisheries body wants gov't to run after illegal importers instead of wet market vendors
Salmon and pampano are laid out in a market stall during an inspection by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
Release / Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources

MANILA, Philippines — Fisheries stakeholders urged the Marcos Jr. administration on Friday to train its crosshairs on illegal importers instead of cracking down on wet market vendors amid the fish import debacle.

In a statement on Friday, the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (NFARMC) said that while they supported the implementation of Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) No. 195, the national government should side with the welfare of wet market fish vendors. 

FAO 195 outlawed the sale of imported fish such as pink salmon and pompano in public markets. This was targeted at helping Filipino fisherfolk sell their haul directly to the market. That said, the same order limited the sale of these deluxe fish to big companies, hotels, and restaurants.

The NFARMC is a policymaking body composed of fisherfolk, industry stakeholders, members of the academe, and non-government organizations. 

“In the effort, however, of enforcing these policies, the NFARMC believes that the focus should be the scrupulous importers who violate the policies and not the small fish vendors at the wet markets,” the statement read. 

READ: DA mulls holding off on salmon, pompano ban | Ombudsman probes BFAR’s belated salmon, pampano ban

“Contrary to some feedback, the implementation of the order is not discriminatory to anyone. In fact, it protects one of the most vulnerable sectors in the country, the marginalized fisherfolk, and the whole industry from competition against imported fish in wet markets,” the NFARMC added. 

Even then, the entry of illegally-imported fish into markets is hurting the local fisheries industry.

Revisiting the 1999 policy, which was suddenly enforced en-masse, is noteworthy but the NFARMC wants the Marcos Jr. administration to “make it more responsive” to the current needs of the sector. 

The NFARMC advised the national government to undergo consultations with them, which is mandated by Republic Act 8550, as amended by RA 10654.                 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is the current head of the Department of Agriculture. His pet department is in charge of safeguarding the welfare and interest of the agriculture sector, which extends to fisheries as well.

As it is, his search for a qualified secretary to lead the department is still underway.

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