Senator Imee Marcos on Thursday, Jan. 20 called out the Department of Agriculture (DA) for conjuring a “fake shortage” to justify the importation of 60,000 metric tons (MT) of fish.
Marcos asserted that there is ample supply of fish for the first quarter of the year and that importation would only deal a fatal blow to local fisheries.
“Stop this rampant importation that will kill our local fisheries,” Marcos, chairwoman the Senate committee on economic affairs, said.
“We have enough fish from stocks unsold in 2021 and yet to be delivered until March. The closed fishing season is also about to end,” Marcos explained.
The DA claims that the damage wrought by super typhoon ‘’Odette’’ to the fishery sector in December demanded the importation of galunggong (round scad), sardines, and mackerel, while the annual fishing ban remains in effect between November and February.
But January 12 data of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) – Fisheries Inspection and Quarantine Division show that only 14,349 MT of fish have been sold in the market, out of the 60,000 MT allocated to 25 importers who have applied for 48,985 MT so far.
Thus, almost 35,000 MT of fish in storage and incoming shipments would be available, apart from the 11,015 MT still open for import applications, Marcos pointed out.
Marcos lamented that the DA turned a deaf ear to a unanimous recommendation of the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (NFARMC) that there was “no need for the issuance of a certificate of necessity to import for the first quarter of 2022,” as stated in the council’s Resolution No. 3, Series of 2022.
The NFARMC is an advisory and recommendatory body that must be consulted by the DA under Section 61 of the Fisheries Code.
Marcos said she intends to file a Senate resolution this week to investigate the issue.