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100K MT imported galunggong diverted to markets

MANILA, Philippines —  At least 100,000 metric tons of imported galunggong or round scad were diverted to wet markets during the last nine months, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. said yesterday.

A crackdown on importers involved in illegal activities has been ordered, Laurel said at a press conference during the three-day food summit at the Philippine Rice Research Institute in Nueva Ecija.

“Vendors in the markets have no liability as it is the importers who divert the (frozen round scad). (Vendors) are just doing their job. I don’t think the crackdown will be on the market level,” he added.

“The concentration (of the crackdown) will be on the registered importers as most of them are identified but we need to be careful. We don’t want to hit legitimate (importers),” he noted.

Laurel’s Memorandum Order 14 suspended the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances for the importation of frozen round scad, mackerel and bonito for canning and processing as well as for institutional buyers.

This was issued following reports that imported fish stocks were being diverted to wet markets.

At least 30,000 MT of imported round scad were sold to wet markets in just three months, Laurel said.

“It is illegal (to divert imported round scad), that’s why we need to enforce the law. Our rough estimate based on a study was at 30,000 tons per quarter or for three quarters the diversion ranged between 90,000 tons to 100,000 tons,” he added.

MO 14 was necessary to stop unscrupulous activities, Laurel said.

“The anomaly was technical. We need (the issuance of MO 14) to prevent this. That’s why I came out with an order to investigate,” he added.

An enforcement team will be formed to chase importers involved in diverting imported round scad, he noted.

Suspending the issuance of import permits could increase round scad’s retail price, Laurel admitted.

“There will be an effect on the prices but… the order was issued because it is fishing season so the retail prices in the market will not be affected as small, municipal and commercial fishers are allowed from March to November, prices should be stable,” he said.

Based on the Department of Agriculture’s