GenSan’s fresh tuna exporters breathe relief as ‘regular flights’ resume

File photo shows traders haggling for the prices of fresh tuna at the General Santos City Fish Port Complex. Fresh and canned tuna products are among the major dollar earners of Soccsksargen or Region 12. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 02 January) – “Regular flights” to and from this city, dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” resumed Monday, allowing fresh tuna traders to heave a sigh of relief as they were able to ship their prized commodity to foreign markets.

On Sunday, three of the four flights going out from General Santos City to Manila were cancelled due to the technical glitch in the air navigation system at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the country’s main gateway in Metro Manila operated by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines .

Reports said that at least 345 flights to and from NAIA were cancelled on Sunday due to the technical problem caused by a power outage.

Fortunately for exporters of fresh mature tuna, which is usually consumed as sashimi or eaten raw, Sundays are no shipment day since the Bureau of Customs here is closed for transactions.

John Heitz, an American expatriate who has been engaged in international tuna trading for at least three decades here, was thankful that flights going out of the city resumed on Monday.

“I managed to ship one ton of fresh tuna to the United States today, Monday morning,” he said.

On Monday, traders bought export grade fresh tuna here at P380 per kilo.

Heitz said there is no international shipment of fresh tuna catches on Sundays as agreed by the sector and the BOC personnel here “to allow the latter to rest or go to church.”

The arrangement has been in effect since the COVID-19 pandemic reared its head in the first quarter of 2020, he added.

As a result, there is also no unloading of large fresh tuna catches, except for a rare few, at the fish port here every Sunday since traders cannot ship them abroad, Heitz said.

“The fresh tuna exporters are not affected by the flight cancellations on Sunday because we don’t do business at all for the day,” he said.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific Air serves the domestic routes at the General Santos City International Airport.

On Sunday, PAL cancelled its only flight from the city to Manila while Cebu Pacific’s 8:15 a.m. flight managed to take-off and arrived at the NAIA, the company’s websites showed.

Cebu Pacific cancelled its two afternoon flights from here to Manila on Sunday.

As of posting time Monday, PAL and the first flight of Cebu Pacific already landed in Manila. Cebu Pacific’s second flight is on the way while the third one is “on schedule” to leave at 4:20 p.m.

There are no direct international flights from here, and fresh tuna exports are flown out of the country through connecting flights. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)