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Palau’s Wants Usd 350 P/MT Export Tax On Its Tuna

A hefty tax on tuna and tuna-like species emerged as the major issue that Philippine fishing companies here raised during exploratory talks late last week for joint fishing venture deals with their Palau counterparts.

Palau slaps an export tax of $0.35 per kilogram on tuna and tuna-like species, regardless on the quality of the stocks.

”That’s quite significant as far as value is concerned. It’s a hefty tax and very difficult to work at that rate,” said Domingo T. Teng, owner of TSP Marine Industries.

”With the price of tuna in the international market at $1,000 per ton, you take 35 US cents/kg for tax and that’s a heavy burden.”

Unless amended by the Palau government, Filipino tuna fishing boat operators asserted that it’s hard for them to invest in the tuna-rich nation.

”The current export tax is not feasible,” a participant who identified himself as representative of Amadeo Fishing Corp. said during plenary discussions.

Late last week, Palau government and fishing industry leaders visited this city, dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” in a bid to lure Filipino tuna industry firms to do business in Palau through joint fishing ventures.

Kuniwo Nakamura, former Palau President from 1993-2001 and now president of Kuniyoshi Fishing Co., said that Palau’s private sector leaders are willing to bring the issue to the attention of their government.

But even with the high tax imposed by Palau, Mr. Nakamura argued that it would be wise for Philippine fishing firms to engage in activities there, noting that Palau is a small country that “cannot fully exploit its marine resources.”

”Our fishing grounds are closer [to the shore] and investing in our country’s fishing industry is not difficult as [Filipino fishing firms] would think,” he said.

Mr. Nakamura pointed out that Palau has granted licenses to six local fishing companies, which can immediately start fishing operations in the island-state’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 miles from the shore.

The former Palau president also said that air travel from Palau to this city is even shorter by 20-30 minutes than travel from Manila to General Santos.

Palau’s ambassador to the Philippines Ramon Rechebei said his government is looking at a review of the export tax rate. “We are open to discussing the issue [of export tax] before coming out with a joint fishing agreement,” he said.

Mr. Rechebei also said that one of the major benefits of engaging with Palau’s fishing industry is that harvests are of good quality, especially the mature tuna.

”Basically, most of the catches are sashimi-grade or first-class, with only a few rejects because of the close fishing ground,” he noted.

Philippine and Palau fishing leaders have agreed to form a body to iron out details of joint fishing agreements.

The Palau companies willing to forge joint ventures with Philippine fishing firms are Palau International United Development Corp., International United Corp., Kuniyoshi Fishing Co., and G & A Fishing Co.

Philippine firms that showed interest were TSP Marine Industries; Citra Mina Seafoods Group; NH Agro Industrial Corp.; Amadeo Fishing Corp.; Rugela Fishing Industry; San Lorenzo Ruiz Fishing Industry; Trinity Homes Industrial Development Corp.; DFC Tuna Ventures; RD Fishing Industry, Inc.; Ramona Fishing, Inc.; Far East Seafood, Inc.; and Gladery Fishing, Inc.