Fish importation as a threat
As a member of Tambuyog Development Center, an advocacy group for the rights of small-scale fishers in the country, I am concerned about the government plan to allow the sale of fish imports in public wet markets.
(“Something fishy,” Inquirer, 2/4/12) This could lead to the relaxation of the national policy regulating such imports. The policy is meant to protect the domestic fisheries sector from the influx of massively subsidized fish imports. I am concerned that allowing fish imports in wet markets would cause injury to the domestic fisheries sector.
I doubt that the Department of Agriculture, as well as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), can’t think of a solution to the alleged fish shortage other than fish importation. Fish is easily replaceable with other protein-rich animal food such as livestock and poultry.
On closer look, however, the DA and BFAR’s stubborn insistence on fish importation is consistent with the free-trade paradigm of the World Trade Organization, and it could be a ploy to justify proposals to liberalize fish importation, to ensure there will be enough supply to meet the demand in wet markets.
It should be noted that Section 61 of the Fisheries Code does not allow the sale of imported fish in wet markets, unless it is certified as necessary by the DA, and that this is intended to protect the developing local fisheries sector. Furthermore, pursuant to the Fisheries Code, Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 195 lays down the factors that must be considered in determining the need for fish importation in wet markets, including the “threat or injury posed to local fishery products.”
Now BFAR officials are said to be planning to amend the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of FAO 195, and I am afraid that it would only open wider the door for the entry of more imported fish into wet markets.
It cannot be denied that fish imports from China and Taiwan are a threat to local fishers because they are cheaper owing to the large annual fisheries subsidies in the two countries (which amount to $55 million and $158 million, respectively). Locally produced galunggong (roundscad) has a retail price of P100-P120 per kilo, in contrast to only P60-P80 per kilo of the imported variety from China and Taiwan; although there are some local traders who try to sell both products at the same price.
The alleged fish shortage could easily be filled up by increasing domestic livestock and poultry production, both of which would promote the national interest because it would stimulate the country’s agriculture industry. The same cannot be said of fish importation.
—JAIME ESCOBER JR., project consultant, Tambuyog Development Center, 23 Marunong St., Barangay Central, Quezon City
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