Import plan expected to erode fishing communities’ livelihoods

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PAMBANSANG LAKAS ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA), an organization of small fishermen, said the fish import program planned for late in the year by the Department of Agriculture (DA) will depress prices and result in hardship for fishing communities.

PAMALAKAYA said in a statement on Sunday that the 25,000 metric tons (MT) of fish imports will make market prices cheaper at a time when fisherfolk are contending with the high cost of inputs like fuel.

The imports were authorized by DA Special Order No. 1002 signed by Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban on Nov. 10. The shipments are intended to address possible shortages during the closed season for key fisheries which will run until January.

“Our fisherfolk will be forced to sell their produce at a much lower price in order to keep up with the imported fish that are cheap yet inferior in quality. This means a huge loss to the income of fisherfolk who are already battered with inflation and the high cost of production,” PAMALAKAYA Spokesman Ronnel S. Arambulo said.

The DA authorized imports of round scad (galunggong), bigeye scad, mackerel, bonito and moonfish for wet markets. Of the 25,000 MT, 80% is to be allocated to registered importers in the commercial fishing industry, while 20% going to fisheries associations and cooperatives.

The DA special order requires all import permits be issued on or before Dec. 15, valid until Jan. 30.

PAMALAKAYA called for an end to the practice of declaring closed fishing season.

 “The farmgate price of local galunggong in Zambales is at P120/kilogram, compared to the P220-P240 per kilogram market price. When imported galunggong floods the market, middlemen and traders will bargain (with fisherfolk for) cheaper prices,” the group said.

PAMALAKAYA asked President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to abandon the import plan and instead improve the productivity of the fishing industry.

“Being the concurrent Agriculture Secretary, Mr. Marcos is duty-bound to undertake measures that will strengthen fishing production, instead of continuously relying on imports,” Mr. Arambulo said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave