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Imee Marcos: Scrap fish importation permits, shorten closed season instead

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
Imee Marcos: Scrap fish importation permits, shorten closed season instead
This file photo shows galunggong (round scad)
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The agriculture department should stop giving the green light to import more fish and should have decided on shortening the closed fishing season to curb shortages instead, Sen. Imee Marcos said. 

She also claimed that fisherfolk now "have basis" to file cases against the DA, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) and Bureau of Customs (BOC). 

Marcos was among the senators who attended a recent hearing on the agriculture department's decision to increase the volume of frozen fish imports, and sign up for an additional 60,000 metric tons (MT) of fish for the first quarter.

"It is clear that certificates of importation should be rescinded," she said in a statement on Sunday, referring to the Department of Agriculture's decision to sign the certificates of necessity (CNI) to import 60,000 MT of small pelagic fish.

She then recommended that the DA should look at:

  • Shortening the closed fishing season, opening it earlier, or lifting it in areas where there are severe shortages. Under closed fishing season, fisherfolk are not allowed to use certain types of nets in catching specified fishes in an area in a bid to protect the species and address overfishing.
  • Assisting the shipment of fish from Mindanao to places in Luzon and Visayas suffering shortfalls. 
  • Auditing post-harvest investments like blast freezing and cold storage facilities. 
  • Maximizing unused fishpond leases
  • Amending the Fisheries Code to require clearance from National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (NFARMC) before pushing through with fish importation. 

In a hybrid hearing last week, Marcos questioned DA officials on why they ignored recommendations of the NFARMC to shorten the closed fishing season instead of approving more imports. During the inquiry, NFARMC chairwoman Sheryl Marie Caballero said she signed the council’s recommendation not to import, but said the agriculture secretary has the final say on the matter.

'Fisherfolk can file cases vs. gov't'

"There are pending cases of alleged smuggling filed by Navotas [City] versus the DA and BFAR. In my view, Filipino fishermen have basis once again to file cases of agricultural sabotage and technical smuggling against the DA, BFAR, PFDA, and BOC," Marcos said in her statement. 

The lawmaker also said she "regrets" endorsing DA Secretary William Dar as head of the agency "since he has done nothing but import rice, chicken, pork, fish, and sugar."

"Everyone admires Mr. Willie's record abroad. Little did we know that upon returning to the Philippines he would fatten big importers and smugglers," Marcos said. 

Sen. Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate's agriculture and food committee, earlier urged the DA to shorten the fishing ban enforced in many parts of the country to curb the need to import fish. 

CYNTHIA VILLAR

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

IMEE MARCOS

WILLIAM DAR

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