The Department of Agriculture (DA) expects the entry of cheaper, imported fish in two weeks as part of the efforts of the government to tame food prices.
Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan said during a briefing on Monday, Oct. 4 that the issuance of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPS-IC) for fish is ongoing, and that actual importation may already begin in a couple of weeks.
“The auction has been done and there are SPIS-ICs that were already issued so it is possible that in one or two weeks, the imported fish will start arriving,” Cayanan told reporters.
For his part, Agriculture Secretary William Dar confirmed that he did sign “a lot of import clearances already.”
The importation of 60,000 MT of fish is currently being done based on the guidelines of the Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 259, which requires importers to first obtain Certificates of Necessity to Import (CNI) from the government.
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.
It was during the second week of September this year when Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) formally opened the application to obtain CNI. The pre-qualification registration was only until September 20, 2021.
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 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.
As a response to this importation, food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan appealed to consumers to prioritize local fish like bangus and tilapia. It also urged the DA to support the domestic producers instead of relying on imports and issuing more CNI next year.
“Helping small fisherfolk and local fish producers makes more economic sense than continuously relying on imports,” Tugon Kabuhayan further said.
On Monday, Oct. 4, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) said the big time oil price hike set to be implemented this week is worrisome because oil expenses cover almost 80 percent of a small fisherman’s entire production cost.
“This unstoppable skyrocketing oil prices push us to reduce the time we spend for fishing activities. From the regular 6 to 8 hours of fishing in a day, we need to cut it back to 4 to 6 hours because of expensive oil prices,” said PAMALAKAYA Vice Chair for Luzon Bobby Roldan.
“The days we spend at sea will also be reduced from the usual four to five days to only three days of fishing trip in a week. Ultimately, this means further diminution of our already small income and additional days of starvation,” he added.
Roldan, a municipal fisherman from Botolan, Zambales, explained that if the price of crude oil will increase by up to P2 per liter this week to its current P40 per liter, a small fisherman who regularly consumes at least 10 liters of diesel per trip will have to prepare at least P420 per fishing operation for the fuel alone.
“Because of this, we’d rather lessen our fishing activities because our income is low and cannot even recover the ever-rising production costs. More often, we have to borrow money to carry out a fishing trip only to return with empty nets and ultimately be buried in debt by loan sharks,” Roldan said.
Latest data available from the Department of Energy (DOE) showed that year-to-date fuel adjustments stand at a net increase of P15.10 per liter for gasoline, P12.95 per liter for diesel, and P10.65 per liter for kerosene.