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Tuna industry still thriving despite obstacles, says exec

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 19 November)—Rising operational costs, particularly fuel prices, have remained a major challenge for tuna players here but the industry in general is still faring well, an official said.

Joaquin T. Lu, president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc., said that the tuna industry has not just remained afloat but is thriving despite the dilemmas that crossed its way along the years.

“Looking back and evaluating the present, the Philippine tuna industry proves to be resilient,” he noted in a paper describing the condition of the country’s tuna industry, which is centered in this city.

Lu said the tuna industry still faces persisting challenges, on top of it the rising operational expenses, particularly fuel prices, which have cut the profit margins of tuna fishers and affected the feasibility of fishing operations.

“Rising operational costs have led to the increase in prices of raw materials. Also the expanded taxes have likewise taken a part of the cost of other materials like tin cans needed to process canned tuna,” he said.

Lu also said that some fishing access agreements with other foreign fishing grounds are still a challenge due to the high fees and constraints that they impose.

For one, Indonesia, which has a rich tuna fishing ground, did not renew its bilateral fishing agreement with the Philippines that expired in 2005. It has allowed fishing by Philippine tuna catchers provided they put up onshore investments in Indonesia.

Early this year, Jose Ingles, World Wide Fund for Nature Coral Triangle Program tuna strategy leader, said that while there is nothing wrong with trying and getting access to fish, the way of doing things have changed.

“For one, fish producing nations within the Coral Triangle such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, together with many of the Pacific Islands, have finally come to realize that most fishing access agreements have always been a one-sided deal. Many joint ventures have been made under dubious arrangements to the detriment of these tuna producing nations,” he said in a statement.

For the Philippines, the solution for the survival of its tuna industry in order to regain its past glory and to flourish again is not to look beyond its borders, but within, Ingles added.

Lu said that declining fish catch in the municipal waters of the country has driven the Filipino fishers to go further away, resulting to increased costs, higher safety risks and more difficulty in sourcing out fresh, high-quality tuna.

Bad weather or typhoons are also a persisting challenge for the country’s tuna producers, he said.

Tuna canners, on the other hand, have to contend against tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers of the major export markets for canned tuna such as the European Union and the United States, Lu said. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)

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