By Ellalyn B. de Vera-Ruiz
A fisherfolk group is appealing to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to cancel an administrative order allowing the importation of 17,000 metric tons of round scad or “galunggong” as they may be tainted with formalin.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the Department of Agriculture (DA) should instead focus on promoting the local agricultural production including fisheries.
The group expressed its “humble” appeal to Piñol as they are “highly alarmed by the high possibility that imported galunggong from China may be contaminated with formalin, a chemical primarily used to preserve cadavers.”
“But most of all, we fear for the negative effect that this importation will pose to the livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk,” Pamalakaya chairperson Fernando Hicap said.
He noted that the price of galunggong in the market only costs between ₱60 and ₱70 per kilo. Hicap said this cost could further decline once DA pushes through with the importation of galunggong on September 1.
The fisherfolk group reiterated its claim that flooding the local market with imported products does not guarantee that it will stabilize the inflation as few consignations and traders still control the price in the market and farm gate price from local fisherfolk.
The group does not consider the import guidelines of DA and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) fair.
One of the reasons cited by Pamalakaya that caused galunggong shortage is the frequent closed fishing season, which prevented the fisherfolk to catch fish.
They also noted the culture of “bulungan” or “whispering” where fish prices in the market are secretly set by middlemen.
Hicap asked the government to improve fishery facilities in the country, such as providing post-harvest facilities to preserve fish and other products for a longer period.
Pamalakaya said they will continue to gather support from the public to oppose and boycott the imported galunggong and other marine and aquatic products.
The group is also planning to stage picket action at the gate of Navotas Fish Port in time of the arrival of imported galunggong on September 1.