Pangilinan hits Agriculture Dept. for fish imports plan

Mico Abarro, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2022 07:45 PM

MANILA - Senator and vice presidential candidate Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said on Friday that the Agriculture Department should inspire local fisherfolk to increase their production, as he criticized the department for pushing through with importing 60,000 metric tons of fish including round scad or "galunggong." 

“Mayaman ang Pilipinas sa aquaculture dahil ikalima tayo sa may pinakamahabang coastline sa buong mundo. Kaya nakakapagtaka talaga na mas pinipili nating mag-import ng isda sa ibang bansa,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

(The Philippines is rich in aquaculture because we have the fifth longest coastline in the entire world. This is why it's puzzling that we would rather import fish from other countries.) 

He added, “Suportahan naman natin ang ating maliliit na mangingisda para naman ganahan silang paramihin pa ang kanilang produksyon ng isda. Isa sila sa mga nagsisigurado na may makakain tayo. Let’s return the favor to them by putting in place programs that will aid them in their
livelihood." 

(Let's support our small fishermen so they would be incentivized to increase production of fish. They're among those who make sure we have something to eat.) 

Citing local aquaculturists, Pangilinan also said that there is enough tilapia and bangus in the country that could be harvested from the country's lake pens. He added that small fisherfolk said that imports would "depress" the price of their catch. 

“Mismong mga mangingisda na ang nagsabi na mayroon tayong sapat na supply ng isda dito sa Pilipinas. Makinig tayo sa kanila at ipakita natin ang ating suporta sa pamamagitan ng pagbili ng produkto nila,” Pangilinan said.

(Our fishermen have said that we have enough fish in the Philippines. Let's listen to them and show our support by buying their products.) 

Pangilinan said this in response to Agriculture Secretary William Dar saying that the fish imports will push through due to supply gaps in the country. 

Dar said Typhoon Odette devastated fishing communities, to which Pangilinan replied that government should step in and aid fisherfolk. He noted that the national government allocated P10 billion for post-Odette rehabilitation. 

“Mayroong allocated P10 billion funds para sa rehabilitasyon. Of this amount, P2.6 billion ang ibinigay sa agriculture sector upang makabangon sila. Perhaps the DA can also provide low interest loans to our fisherfolk who were greatly affected by the disaster,” Pangilinan said.

(P10 billion has been allocated for rehabilitation. Of this amount, P2.6 billion was given to the agriculture sector so they could recover.) 

Pangilinan also responded to reports claiming that most of the Philippines' fish imports come from China and were likely stolen from Philippine waters. 

“Isipin niyo, karamihan sa inaangkat nating isda ay mula sa China na hindi malayong galing lang sa ating sariling karagatan," he said. "Binibili natin ay malamang na ninakaw sa atin? Maling-mali.”

(Think about it. If most of what we import comes from China, then it's not a stretch to say that it may come from our own seas. What we're buying is probably stolen from us? That's totally wrong.) 

Other politicians such as Senators Panfilo "Ping" Lacson and Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao have slammed the DA for pushing through with its plans to import fish.