The Philippine government, through the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), has formally opened the application for importers who intend to fulfill the importation of as much as 60,000 metric tons (MT) of fish, a move aimed towards bringing down food prices in the country.
In a statement, PFDA said it is now accepting applications for qualified importers of frozen fish and aquatic products under the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 259.
Issued in 2018, FAO 259 established the rules and regulation on the importation of frozen fish and aquatic products for wet markets during closed and off-fishing seasons or during the occurrence of calamities. To allow the importation of fish, the Philippine government issues Certificates of Necessity to Import (CNI).
According to PFDA, importers can already submit the required documents to obtain CNI, adding that the pre-qualification registration is only until September 20, 2021.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar approved late August the issuance of CNI for the importation of as much as 60,000 MT of fish to augment current local fish production in anticipation of the closed fishing season.
He made the decision as recommended by the BFAR, in coordination with the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA), and in consultation with the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (NFARMC), and fishing industry stakeholders.
The approved CNI volume of 60,000 MT includes small pelagic fishes like roundscad or galunggong, mackerel, and bonito that will be sold in public wet markets for the benefit of consumers, particularly in Metro Manila and fish-deficient areas in the country.
Under this order, importers must sell the imported fish at P88 per kilogram (kg) wholesale, based on 2020 CNI fish auction conducted by BFAR, or lower as a result of the cost unbundling for imported small pelagic fishes.
The other day, Tugon Kabuhayan joined local fish farmers in appealing to the public to prioritize local fish like bangus and tilapia.
“Bangus and tilapia are much more affordable than galunggong. Retail prices of these aquaculture species are more stable as tilapia currently retails in our wet markets at P120 and bangus at P160 while galunggong sells at P240,” the group said.
Instead of relying on imports and issuing more CNI next year, the group urged DA to support domestic producers.
“Helping small fisherfolk and local fish producers makes more economic sense than continuously relying on imports,” Tugon Kabuhayan further said.