Senators have strongly objected to the decision of the Department of Agriculture to import some 60,000 metric tons of fishes such as galunggong and mackerel.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said Tuesday there was a need to import 60,000 metric tons of small pelagic fish to meet the demand for the first quarter of 2022 due to the damage incurred by the fishery sector from Typhoon Odette in December last year.
Dar also announced the signing of the Certificate of Necessity to Import after the assessment showed significant damage and reduced fish production, especially galunggong (round scad), sardines, and mackerel.
In a Laging Handa public briefing, Dar said they were working to remedy the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ projection of a 119,000 MT fish supply deficiency during the first three months.
But Senators Imee Marcos, Francis Pangilinan, Panfilo Lacson and Emmanuel Pacquiao called on the government not to allow the importation, stressing it would kill the country’s fish industry.
“Stop that importation,” said Marcos as she noted that there were at least 35,000 metric tons still unsold from 2021 importation plus those still to be delivered for the first quarter of 2022.
She said data showed that 60,000 metric tons of fish were approved to be imported during the 4th quarter of 2021 to augment the closed
Of the 38,962 metric tons that arrived, only 14,349 metric tons were sold.
“This means there are still about 35,000 metric tons in storage and incoming shipment to be sold for the 1st quarter of 2022,” Marcos said.
Pangilinan said it is quite unfortunate for a country that has one of the longest coastlines in the world to remain seafood insecure.
Lacson said the DA’s decision to import might well be “killing” the Filipino fishermen.
Pacquiao himself expressed disbelief that the DA’would import 60,000 metric tons of pelagic fishes as he questioned how a country surrounded by large bodies of water could have a shortage in its fish supply.
“This is unbelievable,” said Pacquiao, stressing the DA should protect the interest of Filipino fisherfolks.
Lacson noted the DA has a history of allowing potential corruption in importing agricultural products such as pork, poultry and fish and seafood products.
Lacson, citing data obtained from his office, said the country lost more than P1 billion yearly in foregone revenues from 2015 to 2020 on imported fish and seafood alone.
He also questioned the huge discrepancies between the records of the World Trade Organization and the Philippine Statistics Authority in terms of fish and seafood importation from the top 15 exporting countries from 2015 to 2020.
“If corruption infects the Department of Agriculture that should be at the forefront of food security efforts, it goes beyond human conscience,” he said.