Shutdown of GenSan fish port operations eyed due to COVID-19 cases

The fish port complex here is being eyed for temporary closure to allow authorities to conduct contact tracing after several fishport workers tested positive for COVID-19.

A medical doctor here, who requested that his name be withheld, earlier said he has been attending to 3 COVID-19 patients with a recent history of working at or visiting the General Santos City Fish Port complex, the country’s second biggest.

No date has been given on when the shut down may be implemented but an industry source said it may be "soon."

Lawyer Glen Pangapalan, general manager of Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA), said the market stalls where the COVID-19 patients were exposed will be shut down and disinfected.

“We still do not know for how long but we hope it will not be for a longer duration,” Pangapalan said in a phone interview.

Pangapalan added that other facilities such as the cold storages will remain operational.  

Government offices inside the fishing port complex will be closed tomorrow as it is a Saturday.

City Administrator Arnel Zapatos said the local Inter-Agency Task Force has treated the fishing port complex as a separate cluster and will leave it to the local fish port authorities to implement preventive and contact tracing measures.

Zapatos said at least 5 cases of persons with history of visit or work at the fishport have tested positive for the coronavirus disease.

Zapatos confirmed the planned shutdown but did not also give a date.

Local fish producers and fishing fleet operators were said to have met on Thursday, August 27, to address the rising number of infected people who have either visited or worked at the fishport complex.

Sources said they are looking at a two-week closure.

Rosanna Contreras, executive director of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, said they would leave it to General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera on when the shutdown would be implemented.

Rivera has yet to respond to phone calls as of this posting.

PFDA manager Pangapalan is hoping any shutdown will be short and quick.

“Gensan fisport is vital to the country’s food security.  We cannot afford a prolonged shutdown of its operations,” Panagapalan said.

General Santos City is the country’s undisputed tuna capital, with 6 of the country’s 7 tuna canning plants operating here.

Annual tuna export receipts run to more than $300 million.

More than 25,000 workers are directly dependent on the tuna industry.

The fishport complex here has continually operated even during some holidays.

If the planned shutdown pushes through, it would be the first time since its inauguration in 1997.– Rappler.com