Is the Department of Agriculture bent on ‘killing’ Filipino fishermen?
This question surfaced on Wednesday, Jan. 19 after Partido Reporma Chairman and standard bearer Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson chided DA for its decision to import 60,000 metric tons of fishes such s galunggong (round scud) and mackerel.
“Import pa more! After killing our farmers by importing vegetables and fruits, it is the turn of our fishermen to die,” he said on his Twitter account Wednesday.
DA officials justified the move to import small pelagic fishes by insisting that local supply has yet to normalize following the devastation triggered by typhoon Odette.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources reportedly projected a fish shortfall of 119,000 metric tons in the first quarter of 2022. Lacson recalled that the DA has a history of allowing potential corruption in importing agricultural products such as pork, poultry and fish and seafood products.
“Ang laging remedyo ng DA sa problema ng agrikultura – mag-import ng gulay, prutas at isda. Ang sigaw tuloy ng mga magsasaka at mangingisda – sila na kaya ang ibaon sa lupa at gawing pataba at ihulog sa dagat para gawing pain sa mga isda? (DA’s remedy to all problems in agriculture – import vegetables, fruits and fish. This is why farmers and fishermen cry – let’s bury them and make them fertilizers and throw them into the sea as baits for fish?)” he said in another tweet.
In April 2021, Lacson cited data obtained from his office indicating that the Philippines lost more than P1 billion yearly in foregone revenues from 2015 to 2020, on imported fish and seafood alone.
He also questioned the huge discrepancies between the records of the World Trade Organization and the Philippine Statistics Authority in terms of fish and seafood importation from the top 15 exporting countries from 2015 to 2020.
“If corruption infects the Department of Agriculture that should be at the forefront of food security efforts, it goes beyond human conscience,” he said.
Earlier, Lacson took up the cudgels for Filipino farmers threatened by the importation of agricultural items that we are capable of producing – such as strawberries and carrots.
“The worry of farmers is not just the influx of smuggled agricultural products. They are also concerned about agricultural pests that manage to slip past our authorities’ inspection,” he noted at a Senate hearing on agricultural smuggling last December.
On the other hand, Lacson said it is revolting that the Philippines has to import galunggong from China, whose vessels have bullied our fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.
“Because of the incursions of Chinese vessels, we are denied 300,000 metric tons of fish… If you divide 30 million kilos of fish by 40 kilos, that would translate to 7.5 million Filipino families who have to buy fish from sources other than the Philippines. That’s unacceptable,” he said.