MANILA – Stakeholders expressed support the senators’ call for more roads from fish facilities to markets, pre-border inspections and in-country laboratory tests for fish imports.
They also support the call for the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to focus its efforts against smugglers and importers who are diverting fish products to the wet market in violation of existing regulations.
The group made the statement after attending the public hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform on Monday.
Earlier, BFAR launched a market information drive in 21 markets in Metro Manila, in response to the reported proliferation of imported pompano and pink salmon in public markets.
The information drive “imported na isda pwede basta awtorisado”, has sparked negative reactions from fish vendors for fear of possible confiscation of fish and loss of income, prompting Senator Raffy Tulfo to call for an investigation.
During the hearing, BFAR officer-in-charge Demosthenes Escoto told the Senate panel that the information campaign is part of the enhanced effort of the agency to implement Fisheries Administrative Order(FAO) 195, which states that approval for the importation of frozen fish is granted provided that the fish would be delivered to institutional buyers.
Escoto also said there will be a moratorium on the confiscation of imported salmon and pompano as the regulation is under review.
“We are opening up the review to a wide range of stakeholders, including FAO 195 importers, fisheries stakeholders, market vendors and owners of supermarkets and groceries. We already had two meetings with the market administrators of the NCR (National Capital Region) to also discuss and get their views relative to this particular issue,” he said.
"We hope to be able to move forward by the next quarter of next year to come up with a more responsive and more efficient regulation of the importation of fish and fishery products,” he added.
Meanwhile former BFAR head Asis Perez, who was invited as resource person during Monday’s Senate hearing, expressed support to the recommendations of Senators Cynthia Villar, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Tulfo and Robin Padilla that would ensure steady fish supply at stable prices in the country.
“All these recommendations will improve the industry and benefit fisherfolk and consumers alike,” he added.
The group also lauded the offer of Tulfo to help BFAR in disseminating information to the public as well as his support for the idea of creating a separate department of fisheries. (PNA)