Fisheries bureau clears galunggong in 3 wet markets

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THE Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said that there were no traces of formalin in the round scad samples collected in three wet markets last Wednesday.

In a statement, BFAR Director Eduardo B. Gongona said that there was “no formalin introduced” in the samples of round scad, commonly known as galunggong, that the BFAR gathered from the Balintawak Market, Cubao Farmer’s Market, and the Navotas Fish Port.

“It must be noted however, that based on the laboratory analysis, low levels of formaldehyde were detected. Formaldehyde is a chemical compound which naturally develops when the fish dies,” he said.

In a phone interview with BusinessWorld, Mr. Gongona clarified that the galunggong samples tested were from domestic catches.

“[We checked] because people were saying that there were imported galunggong that managed to enter the wet markets so we checked it for contamination. We didn’t say that there was contamination, but there might be chemicals that can affect the health of the consumers,” he added. “We just had to check due to the clamor that there was contaminated fish so we had to react as a government entity.”

With imported round scad set to arrive at local wet markets by the start of September, Mr. Gongona said that it is BFAR’s mandate to check the quality of the fish before it is sold. So far, only round scad can be imported to supplement the supply of fish in the market.

“Any imported fish, before its leaves the customs area, we’d get the sample [to see] if it’s contaminated with any chemicals that can affect our health. We have experts doing that and technicians and other government agencies that is mandated under the food safety act,” he added.

Last week, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol signed a Certificate of Necessity enabling the importation of up to 17,000 metric tons of round scad. The DA also amended an old Fisheries Administrative Order by allowing fishermen’s groups and sellers, alongside food processors, to import round scad.

Round scad, a staple protein for low-income families and therefore politically sensitive, is so far the only fish allowed for import to help shore up domestic supply.

Mr. Gongona noted that the Certificate of Necessity is only valid for three months. If the government sees that the supply of fish in the market does not meet demand after three months, another certificate can be issued to extend the importation period.

Last Thursday, Mr. Piñol said that the importation can only be carried out during the closed fishing season — which runs from October and ends around February — to give fisherfolk an alternative source of income. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato