DTI wants cooperation with other countries as tuna catch declines

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 3 Sept) – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is pushing for more cooperation with other Asia-Pacific states in a bid to address the declining domestic tuna catches and supplies.

Trade Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. said Thursday they are considering the forging trade agreements with several countries in the ASEAN and the Pacific regions to help resolve the supply crisis affecting the tuna industry.

He specifically cited Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Indonesia, which control vast tuna-rich waters.

“Regional cooperation is currently the most viable solution to our supply problems with tuna and we’re seriously looking into that,” he said at the opening of the 17th National Tuna Congress trade exhibit at the SM Trade Hall here Thursday morning.

In a meeting here Wednesday night, Cristobal said local tuna industry players expressed concern over the continuing drop in tuna catches and supplies in the last two years.

He said the problem is mainly due to the declining tuna stocks within the country’s waters and the limited access for tuna fishing in the Pacific waters.

Cristobal said such situation could later affect the country’s tuna exports to the international markets, especially in the European Union (EU).

In December last year, the EU parliament approved the country’s inclusion in its Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) scheme.

EU’s GSP+ mainly grants zero duty or tariff to over 6,000 eligible exports, including tuna, from the Philippines to its member-states.

Cristobal urged tuna industry stakeholders to cooperate with the DTI, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Foreign Affairs in the pursuit of the trade agreements.

Rather than looking at ASEAN and Asia-Pacific as an area of competing nations, he said they should consider them as potential partners for cooperation.

For instance, the country, through the tuna fishing sector, could offer assistance to the PNG in terms of technology adoption and technical enhancements in exchange for access to tuna fishing grounds.

He said it could also pursue other areas of partnerships or cooperation that would be mutually beneficial for both countries.

The city, which is home to six of the country’s tuna canneries, is dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.”

The industry generates annual export receipts of around US$ 350million and directly employs 20,000 workers.

The Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) earlier reported that local tuna catches have declined by 25 percent as shown by the landings at the city’s fishing port complex.

After posting a 10-year record high of 101,480.19 metric tons (MT) in 2014, local fish landings, 90 percent of which are tuna and tuna-like species, have dropped to just 42,064.73 MT in the first six months of the year.

The PFDA recorded total fish landings of 55,846.31 MT in the same period last year.

But the overall landings were still up by nine percent due to the 50 percent increase in the entry of frozen tuna imports.