Galunggong importation to begin September — BFAR

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The fisheries and aquatic resources bureau said fish importation will boost stocks. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 22) The government will allow the importation of galunggong or round scad beginning September.

In a statement, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Wednesday said the imports will boost stocks.

It cited recent data — gathered from consultations with major fisheries stakeholders — which revealed a low galunggong production.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol approved on August 16 the importation of 17,000 metric tons of fish to boost supply.

BFAR said the importation will begin Sept. 1, and will run for 90 days.

'Strengthen local production, not importation'

Meanwhile, a BFAR official said they are monitoring fish imports in the wake of smuggling reports.

BFAR Assistant Director Sammy Malvas said authorities are looking at fish port prices of P100 per kilogram, only to go up once the fish reach markets.

"May mga reports sa amin na ang pagbagsak ng isda sa fish port halimbawa galunggong, ibababa ng mga barko natin at fishing companies sa 100 pesos per kilo na price, but makikita natin pagdating sa wet market umabot na siya sa 140 o 160," Malvas said in a media forum Wednesday.

[Translation: We received reports that fish that have arrived in fish ports example round scad, the ships and fishing companies would peg prices at 100 pesos per kilo but once we see them in markets, they're priced at 140 or 160 pesos per kilo.]

Malvas said they are monitoring second borders or canneries and processing plants receiving volumes of fish imports.

Vic Dimagiba, president of consumer group Laban Konsyumer, said vendors claimed of fish smuggling.

"Yung issue meron ng galunggong 150, 160, na-discover namin sa interview ng ilan-ilang tindador daw may nakalusot na imported galunggong," Dimagiba said.

[Translation: The issue with round scad (their price of) 150, 160, we discovered through our interviews with a few vendors, there were some imported fish that have been smuggled in markets]

He added imported produce fish are smaller compared to the local produce.

BFAR assured the public that imported galunggong will only be unloaded in accredited facilities for safety controls.

It added the importation should follow guidelines, as it will be closely monitored by the bureau as well as the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority.

Consumer groups and fisherfolk have criticized the move.

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) said that instead of exporting and importing, the BFAR should just focus on strengthening local production.

"As a solution to this ongoing agricultural crisis, we assert that our country should stop from fish importation and exportation and prioritize local food security and national industrial needs," its statement said.

But BFAR insisted this is not the first time the Philippines imported galunggong from other countries, saying imported fish has been used for canning and processing for years.

The bureau hopes the galunggong imports will help reduce prices in markets.