MANILA -- The Philippines has long imported fish, including galunggong or round scad to augment supply especially during closed fishing season, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Tuesday, responding to critics.
In 2017 alone, the country imported 130,000 metric tons of fish and "nobody complained," Piñol told ANC's Headstart. This year, another 3 billion fingerlings will be bought from Indonesia, he said.
"We have been importing and this idea of Chinese galunggong, Taiwanese galunggong, Vietnamese galunggong--galunggongs don't have nationality," he said.
"The galunggong from China doesn't have chinky eyes. That's the same galunggongs swimming in the waters that we share with these countries, sila lang nakahuli. Ano ba problema dun? (What's the problem with that?)," he said.
Piñol also allayed worries that galunggong currently available were laced with formalin or embalming fluid. Traces of formaldehyde in fish, he said, did not necessarily mean that it had formalin.
Aside from imports, the DA is also helping increase production in fish pens to help increase supply, he said.
He said the agriculture sector should not be blamed for quickening inflation. At P140 per kilo in some markets, galunggong recently approached chicken prices.
"Agriculture is also being blamed for inflation. Agriculture only reacts to inflationary developments like fuel," he said.
Asked if the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN, which raised excise taxes on fuel, could be blamed for faster inflation, Piñol said: "What we failed to prepare for is the speculative effect of the TRAIN law."
"When we checked, the production cost actually barely increased, less than 1 percent but in the market, it was 5 to 10 percent. Nag-speculate yung merkado (The market speculated) and I think what we should focus on right now is the market," he said.