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SOUTH COTABATO, Philippines – General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera said it is time for the city to look beyond the tuna industry if it is to become one of Mindanao’s major economic hubs.
“The volume of tuna and other fish landings have long reached optimum production. We will no longer be able to produce the same quantity of tuna catch we enjoyed more than a decade ago,” Rivera said in his first state of the city address on August 5.
Serving his first term as city mayor, Rivera said General Santos has the potential to become Mindanao’s agri-industrial center given its wide avenues and highways, open and idle spaces, excellent location and available infrastructure” such as its sprawling airport and seaport.
The mayor’s family owns RD Fishing, the biggest tuna producer in the city.
Increased frozen tuna landings
Overall fish landings at the General Santos City Fish Port complex went up by 14.5% in the first half of this year for a total volume of 104,310.96 metric tons – higher by 13,238.69 MT from 91,072.27 MT in the same period last year.
Rivera says, however, that tuna canning plants in the city have been increasingly sourcing their raw materials from foreign vessels and from Manila.
In 2013, 43% or 71,988.24 MT of the 167,578.75 MT total fish landings in the city were frozen tuna from abroad while another 8% came from Manila.
Frozen tuna that land in the city end up in canning factories here.
From January to June this year, total frozen tuna landings already reached 48,464.62 MT or 46% of the total landings according to the records of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority.
Fishport authorities began recording imported frozen tuna landings in 2007.
Rivera said the big tuna producers from the city “have been on the continuous lookout for new fishing grounds beyond our exclusive economic zones,” as demand for canned and processed tuna continues to be robust.
Livestock and agriculture
The city mayor said General Santos City also has the potential to regain its status as Mindanao’s biggest hog and cattle producer.
“Before we became known as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines, our city was known as a big supplier of hogs and cattle for the Metro Manila market – some 20% of its requirement,” Rivera explained.
He said the city could also maximize its position as the “preferred destination and gateway of agricultural products in the region.”
South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao are among Mindanao’s largest rice and corn producers.
North Cotabato, Sarangani and South Cotabato are known for their vegetable and fruit production.
The bulk of the products of these provinces are transported to General Santos where they are shipped out to various destinations in the country.
The city, Rivera added, is mulling the establishment of an integrated food terminal.
“We could house a Triple A abattoir, warehouse, cold storage and chilling facilities for agricultural products such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meat products,” he said.
Still the tuna capital
In the end, however, Rivera said General Santos City remains the tuna capital of the Philippines.
“It is not true that we were already overtaken by Mindoro. We are still the country’s Tuna Capital,” he argued.
On the contrary, he added, many yellowfin traders from around the country are bringing their catch in the city where they command better prices.
Six of the country’s 7 tuna canning factories are still operating in the city.
The city will celebrate its 46th charter anniversary on September 5 which also coincides with the annual Tuna Festival. – Rappler.com