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Tuna Congress Wants More Intensive Gov’t Involvement Philippines, September 12, 12

14th National Tuna Congress and Trade Exhibit held in General Santos City

The country’s tuna industry has renewed its call to the national government to institute vital reforms to energize the sector during the recently concluded 14th National Tuna Congress and Trade Exhibit (NTC) held in General Santos City.

Organized by the Soccsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. (SFFAII), the congress passed 10 resolutions that tackled the tuna industry’s perennial issues to continue making it a major contributor to the national economy.

According to tuna congress Chairman Joaquin Lu, among the congress’s most important development is the growing support of the government for the creation of a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to make the fishery sector competitive globally.

Lu, a leading player in the tuna industry, said that both the Senate and the House of Representatives have expressed their support for the creation of the department.

He said that even Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has expressed support for the measure, noting that major fishing countries have a line government ministry to oversee fisheries-related matters.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Francis Pangilinan, who delivered the closing speech at the NTC, also expressed his support to the snowballing congressional effort.

He noted that in international ministerial conferences, the Philippines can leverage better if it is represented by a Cabinet position.

Currently, the country is represented by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), an agency under the Department of Agriculture, headed by a director.

The tuna congress also requested the Maritime Industry Administration and the BAR to fast-track the issuance of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the handline fishing law.

Lu said the IRR has become doubly important now that the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission granted early this year fishing access to Philippine fishing vessels at Pocket 1 of the world’s fishing grounds under a special management arrangement.

Congress delegates also called for the rationalization of the Customs and Tariff Code, or the Cabotage Law, to reduce freight costs, and improve the efficiency of passenger and cargo services.

Conference delegates also supported privatization efforts of the Makar Port and the drawing up of a master plan for the development of the General Santos City Airport, which are both vital modes of transportation to the tuna industry.

The studies were conducted by Soccsksargen Area Development Project Office to further enhance trade and commerce in the Soccsksargen region.

The participants also strongly reiterated their call to expedite government efforts on mutually beneficial arrangements on international maritime boundaries and the strengthening of security programs in southern Philippine waters.

The congress called on the deferment of the ratification of the Torremolinos Protocol of the United Nations International Maritime Organization until consensus among stakeholders has been attained.

With the theme “Opening New Grounds and Strengthening Commitments: A Resilient Tuna Industry,” the annual confab also drew delegates from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Japan, the United States and Taiwan.

Attendees also included members of SFFAII, the umbrella group of tuna players composed of the Southern Philippines Boat Owners and Tuna Association, South Cotabato Purse Seiners Association, Umbrella Fish Landing Association, Chamber of Aquaculture and Ancillary Industries of Sarangani Inc., Tuna Canners Association of General Santos, Fresh Frozen Seafood Association-Tuna Processors Philippines Inc. and the Tuna Cooperative of General Santos City.

The 14th tuna congress is part of the 14th Tuna Festival marking the 44th General Santos City charter anniversary.