A fisheries official said Thursday that a government plan to import galunggong (round scad) could be a case of the country buying back its own fish.
“What we will import could come from us too, since the [fish] may have escaped [Philippine waters] and migrated [outside them],” said Eduardo Gongona, director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
Other countries do not eat galunggong, he noted.
While Filipino fishermen have limited equipment to catch all the fish on the edges of Philippine waters,
Malaysian, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Chinese and Thai fishermen are just there waiting for the catch, he said.
He called on the government to help the local fishermen upgrade and modernize their fishing equipment and ensure that they could harvest more fish.
“Another thing that we can do is not to allow our fish, particularly our galunggong, to migrate. We have to make them catchable within our waters,” he said.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has issued a permit to import 17,000 metric tons of fresh, chilled and frozen galunggong “for the purpose of augmenting the local supply in the fresh markets.”
The fish will come from China, Taiwan and Vietnam beginning Sept. 1 and the permit will last 90 days.
But Gongona said prices for the imported fish could be even higher, even if they might come from Philippine waters.
Galunggong, which was once called the “poor man’s fish,” is sold at about P140 per kilo.
Meanwhile, BFAR warned the public of galunggong that may be tainted with formalin.
Gongona said formalin use on fish violates the Food Safety Act.
“We are making rounds to inspect markets and check if our fish is laced with chemicals,” he said.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas claimed some countries, such as China, have been using formalin to preserve fish harvests.
Its chairman, Fernando Hicap, vowed to inspect imported galunggong once it arrives at the Navotas fish port starting Sept. 1.
Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza branded the imports as “a band-aid solution.”
“It... does not really address the problem of falling fish production. It is a miserable supply side intervention,” Atienza said.
The 17,000 metric tons of imported galunggong is expected to have a landed cost of P75 to P80 per kilo and would be sold directly in local wet markets to help stabilize fish prices, the DA said.
“What difference will 17 million kilos make? That is just equal to 17-million households consuming one kilo each in a day. That will be gone in a day,” Atienza said.
“The best way for the government to fight off rising fish or food prices is by producing more fish and more food,” Atienza said.
“Historically, if we look at other countries that produce large food supplies, they tend to have relatively stable inflation rates, regardless whether the price of crude oil is $50 or $100 per barrel,” he added.
A consumer group, Laban Konsyumer Inc., called for a price ceiling on rice and galunggong, and urged the government to deploy more personnel to monitor market prices.
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