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Imported galunggong likely from Philippine waters – Pangilinan

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Imported galunggong likely from Philippine waters â Pangilinan
He said it was surprising that the DA chose to import fish instead of improving the country’s fishing industry as the Philippines has the fifth longest coastline in the world.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Francis Pangilinan yesterday urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to put in place programs that will inspire local fisherfolk to increase their production, as the agency is standing by its decision to import galunggong (round scad).

He said it was surprising that the DA chose to import fish instead of improving the country’s fishing industry as the Philippines has the fifth longest coastline in the world.

“Think about it, most of the fish we import are from China so it’s not farfetched that they come from our seas. What we’re purchasing is likely stolen from us? Very wrong,” Pangilinan said in Filipino.

He said the government must support small fishermen to encourage them to increase production as they are the ones that ensure Filipinos have something to eat.

“Let’s return the favor to them by putting in place programs that will aid them in their livelihood,” he said.

For his part, PROMDI presidential candidate Sen. Manny Pacquiao disputed the DA’s claim that Typhoon Odette caused the country’s fish shortage, saying it was “a lousy excuse to justify the unabated importation of fish.”

Pacquiao, whose province Sarangani is one of the world’s biggest sources of tuna, said the claim that the typhoon caused the shortage of pelagic fishes does not hold water because these are not known to be in fish cages and aquaculture farms, and are harvested from the high seas or in areas known as pelagic zones.

Instead of resorting to short-term solutions such as allowing imported fish to flood the market, he said Agriculture Secretary William Dar should extend assistance to local fishermen so that they can increase their harvest.

He said the DA can provide local fishermen with interest-free loans so that they can buy bigger fishing boats and modernize their methods. He said corrupt DA officials and some traders would be the only ones to benefit from the fish importation.

He said local fishermen rely on traditional fishing methods while other nations use technology such as sonars and global positioning systems to be able to harvest fish in the high seas.

Pacquiao, who also worked as a helper for fisherfolk in his village in Sarangani as a young boy, has been active in providing support for Filipino fishing communities. At the height of the pandemic two years ago, he donated 10 motorized bancas for a fishing village in Lapu-Lapu City.

He said Chinese fishermen who have been poaching in our waters are not only using high-capacity fishing vessels but are also very organized.

Lawmakers slam DA

Lawmakers at the House of Representatives yesterday slammed the DA’s move to allow the importation of fish reportedly due to shortage of supply in the country.

Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza and Magsasaka party-list Rep. Argel Cabatbat believe the DA’s administrative order allowing importation of 60,000 metric tons of pelagic fish such as mackerel and galunggong is a result of mismanagement and corruption.

Atienza, a candidate for vice president in the May elections, alleged that the shortage in supply of fish in the country is caused by supposed corruption that allowed “monopoly by big businessmen.”

“Our country is blessed with an abundance of rich resources from the sea. We never imported fish then. It was the other countries who imported Philippine fish. Clearly, government is not doing its job and the problem of corruption is causing this shortage,” he insinuated in a statement.

The Buhay party-list congressman cited for instance the case of Laguna de Bay, which is supposed to be the biggest freshwater lake in Asia.

“Once upon a time, this body of water was full of fish and marine resources that could supply Luzon and the whole country. But today, you cannot fish from Laguna de Bay because it has been monopolized by the big fish pens and fish cages owned by powerful and rich businessmen, and many are even owned by foreigners,” he lamented.

“I cannot understand why the government has allowed Laguna de Bay to be the fishing ground for big businesses while the poor fisherfolk around the lake have been deprived of their basic livelihood. How can the Philippines, rich in water resources, fish and aquaculture, now be importing fish?” Atienza pointed out.

“I will not be surprised if the fish we are importing all came from our own Philippine waters! Can you not see the irony? Fish that is caught in our waters are brought to China and then Chinese businessmen offer the same to sell to the Philippines and our government is buying it at a higher cost. It’s ironic, but only with corruption can it happen. And only a stupid government will allow it to continue to happen,” he further alleged.

Cabatbat, for his part, does not buy the DA’s claim of shortage in supply.?“We’re a nation surrounded by water, and yet we need to import fish? Worse than that, we have a shortage? Something’s terribly wrong here,” he stressed in a separate statement.

Cabatbat believes there’s enough supply of galunggong, mackerel and other small fish, contrary to the pronouncement of government.

?“What we have is an oversupply of importers. There are just too many local officials insisting we let these foreign players in to provide Filipino consumers fish, rice, vegetables and other agricultural products. This is killing local industries,” he alleged.

The farmers’ representative suggested that instead of allowing importation, the government should instead extend assistance to local fishermen after Typhoon Odette caused P3 billion in damage to the fisheries sector alone. – Edu Punay, Catherine Talavera

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