Tuna industry woes: GenSan officials negotiating for regular cargo flight to Manila

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 19 March) – City officials here assured local businessmen negotiations are underway for a regular cargo flight from the tuna capital to Manila to address potential huge losses in the tuna industry.

The travel ban in the entire Luzon and the recent closure of the airport here to commercial flights as part of anti-Covid-19 measures have drastically affected the tuna fishing industry, which relies much on air cargo in shipping exports via Manila.

City Mayor Ronnel Rivera clarified, though, that his closure order does not include cargo flights.

A laborer unloads a tuna from a fishing vessel, on Saturday, August 26, 2018, at the usual Market Shed 1 of the General Santos City Fish Port Complex. Fish traders at the port noted a decline in the supply of smaller fishes after a fishing ban on known fishing pockets in international seas took effect. Photo by ROMMEL G. REBOLLIDO

South Cotabato and General Santos Rep. Shirlyn Banas Nograles disclosed they are negotiating with higher authorities to address the situation that would adversely affect the tuna industry if left unattended.

She said they are looking into fielding a regular cargo flight that will bring tuna and other fresh products to Manila.

A local airline employee said it would be costly for an airline company to send an aircraft to fetch cargo from General Santos, without forward cargo or cost-effective load from Manila.

The cargo load must also be at least 11 tons to be cost-effective since there will be no passengers, she explained.

Nograles said the load requirement can easily be complied with because traders here ship out daily five tons of fresh tuna and another five tons of shrimps, aside from other exports.

She said Cebu Pacific Airlines earlier planned a cargo flight for March 20, but the company reportedly backed out because of inadequate load from Manila.

“We will re-negotiate,” said the congresswoman, who is currently under voluntary home quarantine after a House employee died from Covid-19.

As this developed, the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (GSCCCII) expressed full support and cooperation with national and local government agencies in efforts aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

In a statement, the group also pointed out the need for government support to ensure that businesses can be sustained.

GSCCCII president Elmer V. Catulpos said the local business sector “is aware of the moral and social obligations we have especially in this extraordinary time, when we need to look into every aspect on how to face the circumstances we are in.”

He said businessmen can adjust and adapt to current circumstances but that “government should also allow us room for sustenance, like coming up with measures that would extend loan moratoriums on businesses, say three months or until the situation shall have normalized, no interest charges and penalties.”

He said they will also ask government to suspend the payment of mortgages and waive interests, charges and penalties for a period of three months or more. (Rommel Rebollido/MindaNews)