The Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) shall be suspending the confiscation of imported pink salmon, pompano, and other imported frozen fish products in the wet markets, effective immediately.
“We will go back to our original strategy that we are doing which is concentrating on the cold storages and other areas, but not in the wet markets,” DA-BFAR Officer in Charge (OIC) Demosthenes R. Escoto said during a press conference on December 2, 2022.
Escoto said that the DA-BFAR will revisit the regulations and policies governing importation of fresh/chilled/frozen fish and fishery/ aquatic products, particularly the Fisheries Administrative Order No. 195 series of 1999, which authorizes the importation of these products for the purpose of canning and processing, and trade to institutional buyers.
“We do recognize that there have been a lot of changes in the market structures. Marami nang pagbabago and that the regulation needs to be updated with these changes in the market structures in order for that regulation to be effective,” Escoto said.
Meanwhile, in response to the Ombudsman investigation, Escoto clarified that the DA-BFAR has been implementing the FAO 195 since its effectivity. As part of their initial efforts, he said the Bureau is monitoring fish stocks in the first and second border, sea ports and cold storages. They also engage in massive information dissemination.
Escoto said they intend to submit the new policy recommendation by the first quarter of next year.
He stressed that the DA-BFAR would invite a wide range of stakeholders, including suggestions from supermarket store owners and wet market vendors, to participate in the assessment. He said all their recommendations will be taken into consideration before it was submitted to the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council or NFARMC.
“In the interest of the Filipino consumers and fisheries stakeholders, the Bureau remains committed in carrying out its mandate to ensure food security and food sufficiency, especially that the Christmas season is fast approaching, while strengthening the implementation of fishery laws and other necessary regulations,” Escoto said.
According to Escoto, importation of these products into wet markets is only permitted under the Philippine Fisheries Code if a Certificate of Necessity to Import (CNI) is in place, and this is only done during the closed and off-fishing season. He added that the CNI outlines the species, volume that will be permitted, conditions, and other regulations that will be put in place once it enters the country.
“Ang problema kasi kapag iyong importation for commercial use or industrial use ay dinadala sa wet market, doon po nagkakaroon ng problema. Posible po kasi na walang regulations that will cover that one if you divert it. It is in fact punishable by the Philippine Fisheries Code. Iyong pinagbabawal natin at iyon ang ating tutukan,” Escoto said adding that the CNI targets species that supply is reduced during closed and off-fishing season.
“For the species covered with CNI, kapag lumabas iyan sa mga fish ports, kasi ang trading niyan sa mga major fish ports managed by PFDA, meron iyang mga land and transport clearance. They still have its traceability documents pero itong mga illegally transported and agriculturally smuggled they don’t have these traceability documents,” Escoto added. ### (Kristel Merle, DA-AFID)