MANILA, Philippines – A few days before the supposed implementation of the ban, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) backpedaled on the crackdown on pink salmon and pompano in wet markets.
“Taking into account the recommendations from fisheries stakeholders and some lawmakers, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) is declaring a moratorium in its operations in wet markets with regard to the presence of diverted imported pink salmon, pompano, and other imported frozen fish products, effective immediately,” the BFAR said in a December 2 statement.
The bureau under the agriculture department added it will also revisit the Fisheries Administrative Order No. 195 series of 1999.
“Momentarily, the bureau, without disregarding the policy formulation process as mandated by the Philippine Fisheries Code, shall 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,” the BFAR noted.
The fisheries order was issued in 1999 but was only raised this year. It outlawed the sale of pink salmon and pompano in public markets, supposedly aiming to help fisherfolk sell their catches to the market. The same order also limited big companies’ access to the said fishes.
The order was supposed to take effect on Sunday, December 4.
At the height of the concerns on the crackdown, the Office of the Ombudsman started a probe into the ban. The probe sought to determine if there were “anomalies that attended and/or resulted because of this recent implementation.”
According to a DZBB report, the halting of the crackdown was due to some lawmakers’ questioning. On Friday, December 2, Senator Grace Poe urged the BFAR to lift the order while the bureau was studying the policy.
Going after violators
In a statement also released on Friday, the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (NFARMC) said it “firmly stands on the strong implementation of regulatory policies pertaining to the importation of fresh/chilled/frozen fish and fishery/aquatic products such as the Fisheries Administrative Order 195.”
The NFARMC is composed of municipal fisherfolk, commercial fisheries, and representatives from the aquaculture and fish-processing subsector, as well as nongovernmental organizations. It said it is the “highest policy-making advisory and recommendatory body on Philippine fisheries.”
The council said the order should focus on importers that violate policies, and not fish vendors in the market, adding that the order was “not discriminatory to anyone.”
“In fact, it protects one of the most vulnerable sectors in the country, the marginalized fisherfolk, and the whole industry from competition against imported fish in wet markets,” the council explained.
Progressive fisherfolk group Pamalakaya also shared the same position with the NFARMC.
“We reiterate that BFAR should spare small fish retailers who have been forced to sell cheap and imported fishes that continue to flood our country. Instead, the agency should go after importers who violated the FAO 195 by facilitating frozen fish for direct market sales. Moreover, we assert that if there’s no importation, there would be no imported fish in the local market to begin with,” Pamalakaya national spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo said. – Rappler.com