Tuna gab 2013 to highlight strides

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 21 August) – This year’s National Tuna Congress (NTC) will celebrate the partnerships and achievements gained by the local tuna industry over the last 15 years, organizers said.

Rosanna Bernadette Contreras, Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII) executive director, said it is all systems go for the 15th NTC, themed “Celebrating 15 Years of Advocacy, Partnership and Collaboration,” on September 6 to 7 at SM General Santos.

“This is our [15th] year. Through our humble beginnings and after laboring hard the past years to gather all the key players, stakeholders and supporters in the Philippine tuna industry under one roof to seriously discuss its opportunities and challenges, advocate untiringly for necessary reforms, we all deserve to break and rejoice,” she said in a statement.

“We need time [to] sit back for a while, reflect upon ourselves, [and] count as well as savor the blessings that we have had the past years,” Contreras added.

Local tuna players established in 1999 the SFFAII to serve as the umbrella organization of seven associations with at least 100 companies involved in fishing, canning, fish processing, aquaculture production and processing, and other allied industries.

Contreras attributed the success of the local tuna industry to the partnerships forged between the private sector players and government agencies.

Because of this collaboration, “we all became part of a team, working hand in hand in tackling industry issues, challenges and finding solutions,” she said.

Over the years, the teamwork between the private and public sectors attracted foreign investments to the local tuna industry, Contreras noted.

The most recent milestone is the extension of Philippine fishing access to High Seas Pocket 1 for its fleet of 36 ice-chilled fishing boats, which was granted during the 9th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in December, she said.

For the country’s fisheries industry, tuna has been the top export commodity with a collective volume of 76,888 metric tons (MT) for fresh/chilled/frozen, smoked/dried, and canned tuna products valued at US$294.114 million, according to the Philippine Fisheries Profile (PFP) 2011.

Canned tuna constitutes the bulk of tuna products being traded mostly to the United States and Europe.

This city, dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” hosts six of the country’s eight tuna canneries. The two others are in Zamboanga City, according to the PFP 2011.

The canned tuna sector in this city is being kept afloat by foreign frozen tuna catches, data from the General Santos City Fish Port Complex showed.

For the first half of 2013, imported frozen tuna accounted for almost 53 percent of the tuna landings at the fish port complex here.

Frozen tuna imports reached 42,323 MT during the period, data showed.