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Group criticizes DA’s fish import policy

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday chided the Department of Agriculture (DA) anew for its plan to import 60,000 metric tons (MT) of fish.

“When will DA Secretary [William] Dar ever learn that flooding the local market with imported fish does more damage than good to our struggling food industry? We never fail to remind the agriculture department that importation is not the solution to fish shortage which is artificial in essence,” Pamalakaya National Chairman Fernando Hicap said in a statement.

The group noted that the DA recently approved the purchase of 60,000 MT of imported small pelagic fishes like galunggong (round scad), mackerel, and bonito to augment the shortage caused by the upcoming “closed fishing season” in the country’s major fishing grounds in the last quarter of the year.

“Even with ‘closed fishing seasons,’ there are abundant fish stocks in the Philippine seas and that there is no need to open the floodgates with imported fish that threatens the local fishers because imported fish outcompetes their products,” said Hicap.

According to Hicap, the entry of imported fish pulls down the price of local fish caught by small fishermen.

In Palawan, the price of fish, such as round scad, is already P60 to P70 per kilo.  With imported fish flooding the market, this is expected to further go down. This will be very difficult for small fishermen, according to Hicap.

“We attest that the shortage of fish is artificial as it is caused by the unregulated and unjust declaration of closed fishing season in our major fishing grounds. Following the government’s reasoning for importation, why declare fishing ban that generates alleged shortage in the first place? Moreover, even closed seasons are in place, we have lots of fishes in our seas, importation is just unnecessary,” Hicap added.

During the 16th Congress, Hicap said that “closed fishing season” is detrimental to the livelihood of small fishers who are being prevented from catching fish within the closed fishing waters. He also lamented the lack of compensation and government subsidy for the affected fishers during the closed season.

“The government’s liberalization policies exacerbated the import-dependent characteristic of our fisheries industry to the detriment of our local fisherfolk. Instead of holistically addressing the constant agricultural crisis, the government always resorts to band-aid solution like importation,” Hicap said.

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