Senators slammed the apparent late action taken by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) against the illegal diversion of pink salmon and pampano to wet markets.
Senators Raffy Tulfo and Cynthia Villar, at a Senate hearing, grilled the BFAR over the issue.
BFAR officer-in-charge Demosthenes Escoto explained that the bureau had been implementing the Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) No. 195 since 1999. But they were prompted to reinforce this due to the prevalence of illegally diverted pampano and pink salmon to markets, GMA News reported.
The order allows the importation, without the need for a certificate of necessity to import (CNI), fresh/chilled/frozen fish and fishery/aquatic products for canning and processing purposes, including those undertaken by institutional buyers or accredited entities importing fish for final consumption or food requirements of hotels and restaurants.
Since the release of the FAO in 1999, Escoto said they had been employing pre-border, border, and post-border controls, and market monitoring “was just part of their expanded initiative to address the issue.”
However, Tulfo wanted to know why fish vendors seemed to be unaware of the BFAR order, quizzing the official on the implementation of FAO 195, adding that “in fact, nobody knows about this not even the fish vendors na nakausap ko,” he said.
Tulfo also said the BFAR should have disseminated information on FAO 195 through the media as some of the small fish vendors are now afraid of losing their livelihood.
Escoto admitted that there’s a slight delay in the implementation but they were trying to address the issue now.
Villar also questioned how the order was being implemented. Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform, also said asked “we gave you money to establish the first border facility in 2019, di nai-implement hanggang ngayon.” Villar meanwhile said FAO 195 will be reviewed by her committee.
“We will review and recommend what are the changes we want to do with [the order] so that we will be clear and not vague on the implementation of importation considering food security and food safety,” Villar, quoted in an ABS-CBN News report, said.
Escoto said their agency is now holding a series of dialogues with other stakeholders, including market vendors, market administrators, supermarket and grocery owners, aside from those in the restaurant, hotel and institutional buyers, ABS-CBN News also reported.
But with the moratorium being left in an open-ended status, Sen. Grace Poe meanwhile sought for clarification with respect to its effectivity.