Tuna industry seeking deferment of BFAR order on fees

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 Sept) – Tuna industry players here are seeking the immediate deferment and review of the implementation of an administrative order issued earlier this year by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) that imposed various fees, including a 3-percent levy on the export value of tuna species and products.

Marfenio Tan, president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. (SFFAII), said Thursday they have asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to “hold in abeyance” the implementation of BFAR’s Fisheries Administrative Order 233, which included tuna in its “preliminary list of economically important aquatic organisms” that were subjected to new regulations and fees.

He said “tuna and other tuna-like species” should not be included in the list as it is already covered by specific regulations imposed by BFAR under the Philippine Tuna Management Plan and other fisheries management organizations like the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), of which the Philippines is a member.

“These new regulations and fees should be scrapped as they will only render the tuna industry less competitive and cause adverse economic impact that may permanently damage or kill the industry,” Tan said.

BFAR issued FAO 233, which is known as Aquatic Wildlife Conservation, in April this year pursuant to Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.

Section 25 of the FAO 233 identified the non‐threatened aquatic wildlife and economically important species, among which was tuna and tuna-like species, covered by the Aquatic Wildlife Conservation regulations.

It cited that the list, the schedule, volume of allowable harvest, regional geographical distribution and areas of collection of the identified species shall be regularly reviewed and updated by the agriculture secretary.

Under Chapter III of the fisheries order, among the fees and charges imposed pertaining to the identified economically important aquatic species was the export and re-export fee that amounts to 3 percent of their export value.

Tan said they are strongly opposing the implementation of FAO 233 since the fees and charges it imposed specifically covered by-products or derivatives of the identified commercial and economically important species.

“The imposition of certain fees and charges as contained in FAO 233 is a form of taxation, which can only be imposed by Congress through an appropriate legislation,” he said.

Prior to the enactment of FAO 233, Tan said BFAR and other concerned government agencies did not initiate any consultations with local tuna industry players.

“The Secretary of the Department of Agriculture should review and rationalize FAO 233, including the preliminary list of non-threatened aquatic wildlife and economically important species, in consultation with the Philippine tuna industry and other stakeholders,” Tan said. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)