PNG wants tuna catch processed domestically

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PAPUA New Guinea (PNG) is seeking to enforce a local-processing rule for all tuna caught in its waters, which is affecting the Philippine tuna fishing fleet, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

The DA said it is offering Papua New Guinea agricultural cooperation, particularly in rice cultivation, in exchange for relaxing its enforcement efforts vis-a-vis the Philippine fishing industry.

“PNG wants all tuna caught there to be processed in PNG ports. If that happens, it will affect the Philippine tuna industry,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters in Taguig City.

He said tuna is one of PNG’s major sources of foreign exchange.

Mr. Piñol said the Philippines can offer help on improving PNG rice yields amid growing consumption of the staple there.

“PNG has long been asking us to support them in their effort to produce more rice for their country. They also have to import rice even though they have vast territories,” Mr. Piñol said.

“In consideration for leniency on the part of PNG for our tuna stakeholders, the Philippines will help PNG to develop its rice farms,” he added.

Mr. Piñol flew to Vietnam on Wednesday for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

The DA is also hoping PNG will eventually generate a rice surplus which can be shipped to the Philippines.

“The moment we satisfy their domestic demand we could bring to the Philippines the rice produced by any Philippine investors in the PNG rice industry, as a sort of outsourcing arrangement.

He said PNG has a land area of more than 40 million hectares. The United Nations Food And Agriculture estimated that in 2014, land suitable for agriculture in PNG was only about 2.6% or 1.19 million hectares.

“We are looking forward to convert Papua New Guinea as an exporter of rice to the Philippines soon,” Philippine Ambassador to PNG Bienvenido V. Tejano told reporters. — Janina C. Lim