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Imported fish diverted from canneries seen at 100,000 MT 

PHILIPPINE STAR/ WALTER BOLLOZOS

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said about 90,000 to 100,000 metric tons (MT) of imported frozen fish meant for canning and processing are being diverted to wet markets each year.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. said Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) No. 195 of 1999 authorizes institutional importers to bring in fish, which may not be sold to the public.

Mr. Laurel was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a food security forum on Wednesday.

The DA has suspended the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances for fish species intended for institutional buyers, pending an investigation into the diverted shipments.

The DA had received reports of imported round scad (galunggong), mackerel, and bonito surfacing in wet markets.

 “These are being diverted in huge quantities… both fisherfolk and commercial (fishing companies) are being affected,” Mr. Tiu Laurel said.

FAO 195 allowed institutional buyers to ship in frozen, chilled, or fresh fish to reduce competition for those selling their domestic catch in public markets.

He added that prices should remain stable due to the open fishing season for commercial and municipal fisherfolk.

He added that the DA will create an enforcement team to regulate the diversion of fish to other markets.

“We are rebuilding the enforcement team. At the moment, there are still quite a few without official appointments. So, we can’t move effectively,” he said.

He added that the DA will target registered importers diverting fish from institutional buyers.

“Those at fault are the ones who imported and diverted (the fish), while those in the markets (are) just doing their job… they just need income. I don’t think the crackdown will be on the (public market) level,” he said. — Adrian H. Halili

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