By Stephanie Sevillano
MANILA – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) ordered Friday the moratorium on the crackdown of imported frozen fish in wet markets in the country.
At a press briefing, the BFAR said it made the move following calls from legislators to review the regulation.
“The [Department of Agriculture]-BFAR is declaring a moratorium in its operation in wet markets with regard to the presence of diverted pink salmon, pompano, and other imported fish products, effective immediately,” BFAR Officer-in-Charge Demosthenes Escoto said.
This means the intended confiscation of diverted frozen fish starting Dec. 4 shall be momentarily put on hold while the guidelines are being reviewed.
Under Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 195, approval for the importation of frozen fish is granted provided that the fish would be delivered to institutional buyers.
The BFAR earlier said the diversion of frozen fish is deemed unauthorized, insisting that such destination diversion is technically illegal since the approved importation is bound for the use of hotels, restaurants, and canning industries.
Several senators urged the BFAR to review FAO 195, since confiscation seems untimely.
Senator Raffy Tulfo, for instance, called out the BFAR’s move against small fish vendors, saying it was “anti-poor” while Senator Grace Poe said the set confiscation came at a bad time since the holiday season is approaching, to which the bureau responded shortly.
“In the interest of Filipino consumers and fisheries stakeholders, the bureau remains committed to carrying out its mandate to ensure food security and food sufficiency, especially that the Christmas season is fast approaching,” Escoto said.
The National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (NFARMC), meanwhile, said the BFAR’s original move before the moratorium is not discriminatory.
“Contrary to some feedback, the implementation of the order is 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,” it said.
It then urged the BFAR to continue its strict move against unauthorized importers, to ensure the welfare of local fishers, especially during the closed fishing season.
“The NFARMC believes that the focus should be the scrupulous importers who violate the policies and not the small fish vendors at the wet markets,” it added.
The BFAR has already reiterated its call to vendors to be keen in assessing the authorized permits of importers to know the legitimacy and safety of their supply. (PNA)