BFAR halts ban on imported fish sale while it reviews regulations
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Friday declared a moratorium on its crackdown on imported pink salmon, pompano, and other imported frozen fish products in wet markets effective immediately.
The Department of Agriculture’s BFAR said it took into account the recommendations from fisheries stakeholders and lawmakers who were vocal against its ban.
BFAR said it would revisit the regulations and policies governing the importation of fresh, chilled, and frozen fish and aquatic products, particularly the Fisheries Administrative Order No. 195 series of 1999, which authorizes the importation of these products for the purpose of canning and processing, and trade to institutional buyers.
“In the interest of the Filipino consumers and fisheries stakeholders, the bureau remains committed in carrying out its mandate to ensure food security and food sufficiency, especially since the Christmas season is fast approaching while strengthening the implementation of fishery laws and other necessary regulations,” it said.
Meanwhile, the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council, the policy-making advisory and recommendatory body on Philippine fisheries, said it stands firmly on the strong implementation of regulatory policies pertaining to the importation of fresh, chilled, and frozen fish such as Fisheries Administrative Order 195.
The group asked the BFAR to continue enforcing measures that curb illegal acts of unauthorized and undocumented importation of frozen fish, saying their proliferation in wet markets hurts the local fish industry.
The group said the focus should be on the scrupulous importers who violate the policies and not the small fish vendors in wet markets.
“Contrary to some feedback, the implementation of the order is not discriminatory to anyone. In fact, it protects one of the most vulnerable sectors in the country, the marginalized fishers, and the whole industry from competition against imported fish in wet markets,” it said.
The NFARMC said it supports BFAR in its initiative to revisit FAO 195 to make it more responsive to the needs of the times.
“However, it should undergo a process of consultation with the council as mandated by RA 8550 as amended by RA 10654,” it said.
Earlier, BFAR came under fire for banning the sale of frozen imported pink salmon and pompano in wet markets.
In an interview on ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo, BFAR chief information officer Nazario Briguera said the bureau would seize imported pompano and pink salmon sold in wet markets starting Dec. 4 to protect the local fishing industry.
But Senator Raffy Tulfo said he smelled something fishy and demanded to know the real reasons behind the ban on the sale of pompano and pink salmon.
In a privilege speech, Tulfo pressed BFAR for the basis of its prohibition, saying he was unconvinced by the agency’s explanation.
He said while the administrative order is about the importation of fish, the implementation targets small and poor vendors in the markets.
He said BFAR’s campaign should be waged in ports in coordination with the Bureau of Customs.
“Why are they making a show at wet markets with these fish vendors?
They only bought these fish, they were not importers,” Tulfo said.