Business as usual for some fishermen despite the threat of a volcanic erruption here in Laurel, Batangas.
Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV
Fish from Taal Lake safe for consumption after all — BFAR
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - January 20, 2020 - 2:26pm

MANILA, Philippines — Less than a week since the Department of Health issued a warning against consuming fish from Taal Lake, the Department of Agriculture announced that fish samples were actually safe to eat amid Taal Volcano's unrest.

According to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on Sunday night, laboratory analyses for water and fish samples "revealed that consumption of fish from Taal Lake is safe, but it must be confined to those that are fresh and caught alive."

The department also cautioned the public that any fish caught in the lake must first have their internal organs removed and should be washed and cooked thoroughly.

Ensuring safety

The DOH first warned the public not to consume any product from the lake on Tuesday, January 14, just days after the initial steam eruption of Taal Volcano on Sunday, January 12 caused rampant ashfall that experts said would lead to fishkill in the lake. 

"Dapat wala nang bibili kasi 'di natin maaasahan ‘yung safety ng ating mga mamamayan,” Health Assistant Secretary Maria Francia Laxamana said in a press briefing that day.

(No one should buy fish from Taal area and Batangas anymore because we can’t assure their safety.)

Militant fisherfolk federation Pamalakaya criticized the DOH for its initial advisory, saying it was prematurely issued pending lab results.

They said that such a warning could potentially pull down the farm gate value—the price of produde before transportation and marketing costs—of their fish products due to “stigmatization” and lead to other socio-economic effects on both fishermen and consumers. 

The DA only announced that they ordered the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to conduct water quality tests the day after the advisory was already issued.

Right after all 

"[L]ocal fishers were right after all; the advisory warning of the health department against consumption of fish from Taal Lake was too early, and could seriously impact the livelihood of small fisherfolk, as well as ordinary consumers,” Pamalakaya said in a statement on Monday. 

According to Monday's 6 a.m. update by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, total damage and losses to agriculture amount to P3.06 billion in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite alone, which have both since been declared under a state of calamity, which indicates significant loss to agriculture and infrastructure among others. 

In their statement, the DA said the fisheries bureau is prepared to provide assorted fingerlings, which included, 7 million for tilapia; 20,000 freshwater shrimp, 50,000 hito, 100,000 bighead carp and 5,000 ayungin "[o]nce aquaculture operation resumes and suitable areas are identified."

"[W]e appeal to the DOH to lift its advisory to prevent escalation among the consumers as well as deter the unreasonable retail price increase of fish in the market,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson, said.

The former Anakpawis party-list lawmaker also called for authorities to secure the safety of harvesting fishers instead of preventing them from going back to their communities. 

“This will ensure that our fisherfolk could still make ends meet while being evacuated," he said. 

BUREAU OF FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH TAAL VOLCANO ERUPTION 2020
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