GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 July) — For City Mayor Darlene Magnolia R. Antonino-Custodio, the title “Tuna Capital of the Philippines” no longer sounds as sweet as before. She now wants the city to become the “Tuna Capital of Asia.”
She expressed optimism the local tuna industry has the potentials to beat Thailand, currently the world’s largest producer of canned tuna.
Achieving it requires making the city’s fish port complex competitive with the port of Thailand, so the locality will become the port of choice of international fishing fleets, the mayor stressed.
It is also essential to upgrade the city airport to become a world-class facility, she said, adding the first of a series of facelifts is underway with a funding of P30 million from the national government coffers.
Custodio, previously the representative of the first district of South Cotabato for three terms, said among her administration’s top economic thrusts would be to continue enticing investment capitalization for the improvement of major infrastructure facilities.
She will also aggressively push for the passage for the long-sought establishment of the General Santos City Economic Authority, to attract more investments.
This city hosts six of the country’s seven tuna canneries.
Miguel B. Lamberte Jr., local chief of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority, which manages the fish port complex, lauded the target of the city hall to make the complex a major international fishing port of call.
He noted the local fish port is now capable of handling large ships, citing the completion more than a year ago of two wharves measuring a total of 430 meters that can accommodate 7,000 gross metric ton vessels.
These wharves have docking capability of nine meters deep, he added.
“We are talking with foreign fishing firms for them to prefer GenSan as a landing destination,” Lamberte said earlier.
From international fishing grounds, it will only take six days for carrier vessels to reach this city, compared with 15 days to Thailand, the fisheries executive said.
Lamberte said that in anticipation of foreign fishing firms unloading their tuna catches here, there is a need to build additional cold storage facilities to cope with this outlook.
The combined holding capacity of the cold storage facilities in the city is at least 50,000 metric tons.
He estimated that if more foreign fishing vessels will eventually prefer General Santos as unloading point over Thailand, it will need to establish 30,000 MT-50,000 MT capacity storage facilities.
Investments by canneries in new cold storage facilities will enable them to hold stocks for six months to a year, he said. (MindaNews)