GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/05 September) — The tuna industry here could be a key contributor to the foreseen surge in trade exchanges within the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with the commencement of the regional economic integration next year.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, gave such assessment as she declared that the country’s fishery sub-sector, as bannered by the tuna industry, is presently considered as among the most ready and competitive for the 2015 ASEAN integration.
She said the tuna industry, which is mainly based in this city, has emerged as one of the top performers in the country’s agriculture sector as seen with its expanding reach in the export markets.
In 2013, she said government data showed that the country shipped around US$ 1.43 billion worth of fishery products, with fresh and processed tuna accounting for around US$ 632 million.
Villar described such export performance for tuna as the best in the last decade based on the recorded exports of just around US$ 117 million in 2003.
“We should capitalize of these competitive advantages and enhance our strengths as we approach a more integrated regional economy in 2015,” she said in her keynote speech at the opening of the 16th National Tuna Congress at the SM Trade Hall here on Thursday afternoon.
To sustain its competitiveness, Villar said the industry needs to focus its efforts on addressing various fishery-related issues and concerns, specifically on sustainability.
She said specific precautionary measures should be in place to ensure long-term sustainability for the country’s fishery resources.
Villar cited the need for the industry and the country to observe international treaty obligations on food safety as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
She said tuna industry players need to fully comply with the conservation and management measures set by international fishery conventions that involves the country.
These include regulations set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.
“There’s no question that we need to maintain a good balance between the requirements for increased production to contribute to food sufficiency against the need to conserve and protect our resources,” she said.
Around 500 domestic and foreign tuna industry players are currently gathered here for the two-day congress, which mainly centers on “bringing the Philippine Tuna to greater heights and making quality the forefront of trade strategy.”
The congress, which was organized by the Socksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc., carries the theme “Shared Resources, Shared Responsibility.”
The tuna congress is among the highlights of the city’s 46th city charter anniversary and 16th Tuna Festival, which opened on Friday.
Dubbed the country’s “tuna capital,” this city has hosted the National Tuna Congress since it was first staged 15 years ago.
The city hosts six of the country’s seven tuna canneries and other related ventures that generate an average of nearly US$ 300 million in annual export receipts. (MindaNews)