Easing fish imports ‘problematic’

The proposal of the National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) to ease the importation of fish and other agricultural products will affect producers in the long run, according to Tugon Kabuhayan.

Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis Perez said in a virtual briefing on Monday that such a move is “dangerous” and “counterproductive.”

“We feel that it will be problematic on our part. It will be challenging for producers to sell their respective produce,” said Perez, former director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), partly in Filipino.

“It’s not a question of availability but the question of the logistical system that we’re having as a result primarily of the pandemic. If that happens and if important of fish products push through, remember what it will do to our market and remember what… just imagine what will it do to our producers. They will contend with more challenges and may eventually decide to stop investing,” Perez said partly in Filipino.

Tugon Kabuhayan is yet to see the entire proposal. But Perez said that while the advocacy group can file a counterpetition, NEDA’s proposal would be “counterproductive” to the industry.

Jon Juico, president of Philippine Tilapia Stakeholders Association, agreed with what Perez said, referring to their experience years ago.

“Based on our experience in 2018, there was overproduction yet the government approved the importation of roundscad,” Juico said in Filipino.

“It brought the prices of tilapia down and a lot of our fish farmers suffered heavy losses,” he added.

In the same briefing, Tugon Kabuhayan noted that by 2031, the country needs to produce an additional 500,000 metric tons (MT) of fish.

It cited a projection that the Philippine population will reach 125 million in 10 years’ time.
“We are just being realistic in saying that if we need 500,000 MT of fish, aquaculture will fill the gap. The aquaculture sector used to be not sustainable but we are trying to change that by introducing concepts,” Perez said partly in Filipino.

Juico also said government should focus on “ how to maximize the farms so that local farmers will earn.”