‘The traders demanded by letter, text messages and verbally that the fish be returned to them, but to no avail.’
THE Filipino diet is simple, especially in rural areas where many residents are poor. It is just rice and some animal or plant protein stuff: pork, chicken, fish and vegetables. While President Duterte’s first agriculture secretary (Emmanuel Piñol) left us with serious problems in the supply of rice thus triggering inflation, his replacement, Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar. is giving us more woes in the other components of the Filipino diet — pork, chicken, and fish — pushing inflation even higher.
It is bad enough that Secretary Dar failed to contain the onslaught of the African swine fever in our piggeries, even with the cooperation of local government units. It is worse that he is pushing for the Palace to increase pork importation by increasing the minimum access volume (MAV) of importers. As if these were not enough, Dar wanted meat importers to have a heyday with lower tariffs, all in the name of averting a huge undersupply of pork and chicken in the market.
We do not want to hurl aspersions but Sen. Panfilo Lacson has called out the DA on reports that millions of pesos are changing hands at some Agriculture offices in connection with meat importation. The Senate Committee of the Whole has set a full-scale investigation on the claims of large-scale corruption and payola scandal at the agriculture department.
As we wait for the Senate to probe the meat (pun intentional) of our protein concerns, there is another report straight from the Navotas fishport that there is also a looming problem in fish supply. And this one is not about low harvest of fish by fishermen, or bad weather getting in the way of profitable fishing.
A group of fish traders in Navotas asked the help of media at a press conference in Quezon City to ventilate their problem and bring their concerns to higher government officials. They claimed that the city’s Business Permit and Licensing Office (BPLO) has continuously refused to release their stocks currently stored in cold storage facilities at the Navotas Fishport. When asked why, these officials could not cite any violation of law or ordinances, the traders claimed. They were only told to wait, but weeks of waiting have passed without any new development. Even the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority, which they consulted, could not find an explanation for their predicament.
The traders demanded by letter, text messages and verbally that the fish be returned to them, but to no avail. This prompted the group to initiate the filing of charges against Navotas City Mayor Tobias “Toby” Tiangco and the city’s BPLO before the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) for refusing to release their frozen fish products despite countless demands.
The refusal of Tiangco and BPLO to release their fish stocks, according to the traders, has contributed greatly to an artificial shortage of fish supply, resulting in high prices, at least in the Navotas port where most of Metro Manila residents get their fish. Their unreleased fish stocks are crowding out other traders who should also be using the cold storage, aside from having their capital frozen just like their fish.
They asked Malacañang and DA Secretary Dar to intervene to find a solution to their problem, stressing that the fish stocks are as important as ensuring a good supply of pork.