Cebu Pacific spares GenSan tuna exporters from losses

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/12 Oct) – Contrary to reports, the transport of fresh tuna bound for the foreign markets has not been affected by the ongoing labor dispute between the management and workers of Philippine Airlines (PAL), exporters here said Wednesday.

John Heitz, export manager of GenSan Aqua Traders, said that budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air saved the day for them in the past two weeks when the PAL workers staged protests that led to the cancellation of flights.

“We have not been really affected because Cebu Pacific continues to serve us here [on a daily basis],” the American national told MindaNews.

The PAL Employees Association went on a work stoppage late last month in protest of the management’s move to lay off thousands of workers.

Media reports said the tuna industry was losing an estimated P50 million daily because of the PAL flights cancellations, citing data from the private-sector led Tourism Congress

“The local chamber of commerce also revealed that, for the tuna industry alone, reported losses are to the tune of around P50 million a day, the corresponding revenue value of a daily shipment stock of about 20-26 tons of tuna that did not reach its designated buyers because of cancelled flights,” GMA News quoted the Tourism Congress report as saying.

Heitz scoffed at the report, saying that on a daily average, the five or six fresh tuna exporters could only fly out an estimated P5 million worth of stocks to foreign markets such as the United States and Japan.

Daily tuna exports using the airplanes mainly consist of large tuna that is considered sashimi-grade. These stocks are caught using the handline fishing or the traditional hook and line method.

Canned tuna products from the factories are mostly transported abroad using sea vessels, Heitz noted.

Bench Tacumba, executive director of the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, declined to comment on the reported P50-million estimated daily losses the tuna industry has allegedly suffered due to the PAL labor dispute.

In a phone interview, she said her office did not release any figure on the effect of the PAL flight cancellations to the local tuna industry.

Industry data showed that in 2010, fresh/frozen/whole tuna exports reached around $81 million (at least P3.5 billion at today’s exchange rates), or roughly only P10 million daily export production. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)