The Philippine government is now grooming the municipality of Dingalan in Aurora Province to become the next “tuna capital” of the country, a title previously given to General Santos City in Mindanao.
A statement from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) showed that efforts are now on the way to boost the tuna production in Dingalan, which is bounded by the Philippine Rise, previously known as Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare undersea extinct volcanic ridge located in the Philippine Sea.
“Very soon, Dingalan will not only be known as the ‘Batanes of the East’ but also as the country’s ‘Tuna Capital of the North’,” BFAR said.
Philippine Rise is an underwater ridge that has been found to have rich biodiversity and abundant natural resources that offer a safe haven for spawning, while its numerous seamounts serve as a nursery zone for oceanic tuna species, including the endangered Pacific bluefin.
Previously, only research activities were allowed within the Philippine Rise, but in 2017, about 3,000 hectares of the feature has been designated as a special fisheries management area and ‘protected food supply exclusive zone’, where fishermen in Dingalan and other neighboring municipalities are allowed to fish for food.
Last week, BFAR officials, led by regional director Wilfredo M. Cruz, visited the area and saw its potential. He then vowed to advocate for the development of the town’s fishery sector.
First on his list would be the construction of a fish port in the municipality that will also serve as a dock and refuge for all vessels during typhoons and a station for the Philippine Coast Guard.
Cruz said he already submitted the proposal to BFAR’s central office for consideration and approval.
He also committed to assist the municipal government of Dingalan in organizing a fisherfolk cooperative that will allow members to qualify for assistance to procure bigger boats as well as put up bigger cold storage and processing facilities.
For his part, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he will instruct the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) to conduct a feasibility study on the establishment of a fishport complex in Dingalan, Aurora as well as a wholesale fish market in Rosales, Pangasinan.
According to him, sashimi grade tuna from Dingalan can be flown out of the country through
Clark Airport, while various fish produce from Pangasinan, Aurora, Zambales and Central Luzon can be consolidated in Rosales, Pangasinan and distributed to north, central, and north-eastern Luzon, and even to Metro Manila.
To date, Dingalan has about 300 fishing boats and 20 commercial fishing vessels.
The focal point of fishery activities in this small town is the community fish landing center (CFLC) in the “aplaya” in Barangay Paltic. Here, the day’s fish catch is transported from the carrier boats to the landing facility, where buyers from all over Northern Luzon await to purchase the freshest fish for sale to markets and restaurants.
Near the aplaya is a small processing facility for tuna that produces limited quantities of sliced sashimi, belly, jaw (panga), and tail (buntot) for select markets.