THE Department of Agriculture (DA) signaled plans to import 35,000 metric tons (MT) of fish by outlining the procedures for obtaining sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSICs) and certificates of necessity to import (CNI) in those volumes, which it intends to distribute to commercial fishing companies and fishing associations affected by closed fishing seasons in various parts of the country.

In a memorandum circular dated Aug. 15, the DA said that the species to be imported are frozen round scad or galunggong, bigeye scad, mackerel, bonito, and moonfish for sale in wet markets.

“The fish to be imported under the CNI 35,000 MT 2023 shall be reported to and consolidated by BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources). All fish must arrive within the validity period of the SPSIC and in no case later than Jan. 15, 2024,” according to the memo signed by Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban.

Under the memo, importers were given seven working days to register with the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority and submit complete requirements to participate.

Some 28,000 MT will be allocated to commercial fishing companies, while the remainder will go to fisheries associations and cooperatives.

Only those whose operations are affected by the closed fishing season are qualified to participate.

The import clearances will be issued in two tranches in which the first 50% going out on Oct. 1-30 and the remaining half releasing on Nov. 6-30.

“The importer must have a cold storage facility or cold storage warehouse lease agreement before the issuance of SPSIC,” the DA said.

Asis G. Perez, former BFAR director and co-convenor of advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan, said in a Viber message that “we think that the volume is reasonable and the process used in coming up with the decision is acceptable.”

The import plan comes on the heels of an 11% decline in fish production during the second quarter.

In a report, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said production was 1,082.22 thousand MT during the period.

“Annual declines in production were noted in commercial fisheries, marine municipal fisheries, and aquaculture subsectors,” the PSA said.

In the three months to June, production by the marine municipal fishery, which accounted for 21.7% of total output, fell 16.8% to 234.90 thousand MT.

Commercial fisheries output fell 14.5% to 235.24 thousand MT. This accounted for 21.7% of overall fisheries production. 

Aquaculture production, which accounted for 53% of total output, declined 8.3% to 573.85 thousand MT during the quarter.

Production by the inland municipal fishery rose 4.4% to 38.23 thousand MT. This accounted for 3.5% of the total.

Of the 20 major species, declines were noted in skipjack or gulyasan (49.3%), fimbriated sardines or tunsoy (42.2%), yellowfin tuna or tambakol/bariles (23.2%), milkfish or bangus (19.2%), and seaweed (4.9%). 

Higher production was recorded for round scad (30%) and tiger prawn or sugpo (0.9%). — Sheldeen Joy Talavera