Lawmakers want probe on galunggong importation

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 25 2022 04:27 PM

MANILA -- The Makabayan Bloc has filed a resolution asking the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture and Food to investigate, in aid of legislation, the impact of the importation of round scad fish or galunggong on the livelihood and economic status of fishermen.

The resolution was introduced by Bayan Muna Reps. Eufemia Cullamat, Carlos Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.

The resolution came after the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced on Jan. 18 that it approved the importation of 60,000 metric tons of frozen small pelagic fishes like galunggong for local wet markets, to cover the expected shortage in local supply due to the pandemic and typhoons.

In their resolution, the lawmakers noted that the Philippines has been increasingly importing galunggong since 2018.

"Based on government data, the annual importation of galunggong are as follows: 17,000 MT in 2018; 45,000 MT in 2019; 30,000 MT in 2020; 60,000 MT in 2021 and 60,000 for 2022," they said.

The resolution also pointed out that the retail price of galunggong remains high and unaffordable for consumers, as it is now at P250-P280/kilogram in markets. 

“Fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA said the unreasonable prices of galunggong is mainly caused by the government's failure to regulate private traders who secure their profits by manipulating and jacking up the wholesale prices of galunggong that eventually pushes up the retail prices at unaffordable levels.“

House Resolution 2467 cited the PAMALAKAYA's warning that the renewed galunggong importation will further drive down the farmgate prices of fish, and force fishermen into economic crisis and bankruptcy. 

“The fishers group also demands the lifting of the Fisheries Administrative Order 167-3, which established a three-month closed fishing season across the Visayan Sea from November 15, 2021 until February 2022. The said closed fishing season covers at least 33 coastal towns from Regions V, VI, and VII.”

Sen. Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said the implementation of the closed fishing season could be suspended amid the reported shortage in fish supply, as she questioned the approved importation.

"Kung tingin nila naapektuhan ang fishing because of Odette, sana sinuspend nila temporarily yung closed season. They can suspend it if they want to, instead of importing. Bakit hindi nila sinuspend? They went ahead with the importation. Parang mas malakas sa kanila importers kesa sa mga fisherfolk, 'di ba? Kaya medyo questionable ginagawa nila," Villar said in a hearing Monday.

(If they think Odette affected the fishing industry, they could have temporarily suspended the closed season... Why didn't they suspend it?... It seems like they favored the importers over the fisherfolk. That's why their action looks questionable.)

"Importation of galungong is again in the news. Nag-aaway ang DA at saka association ng mga fisher folks and fishing dahil ayaw ng association na mag-import sila. Ang sinasabi nila, yung inimport last quarter, hindi pa nabebenta so bakit nag-import na naman?" she added.

(The DA and the fisherfolk association are fighting because the latter doesn't want to import. According to them, why import again when the supply imported last quarter have yet to be sold?) 

Villar said fisherfolk groups sought her help to stop the importation. But she said she advised them to report to President Rodrigo Duterte because DA officials do not listen to her.

- with report from Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News

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