No formalin in galunggong; input to continue
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Agricultural Secretary Emmanuel Piñol confirmed the test results yesterday showing that no formalin was present in galunggong (round scad) but remained determined that his department continues with his plan to import the fish.
Director of the Office of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture (OES) Under-secretary Eduardo Gongona said earlier that no formalin was injected into the samples of Galunggong collected at Balintawak Market, Cubao Farmer's Market and Navotas Fish Port wine.
"However, it should be noted that low levels of formaldehyde were detected on the basis of laboratory analysis," Gongona said, adding that formaldehyde naturally occurs when fish die.
But Piñol claimed that the DA will import galunggong, despite warnings from the Ministry of Health and Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas.
He said the country has imported Galunggong for a long period, citing the fact that at least 136,000 tons of the fish came to the local market last year.
"Why we import galunggong is because the closed fishing season will start soon and there will be a huge reduction in the catch.We really need to set up a system that is capable of supplying the required fish on the market and the import is one "said Piñol.
"We are not only importing the price, but it is also part of our fish preservation program," Piñol added.
Meanwhile, BFAR assures the public that it is in close cooperation with other government agencies to ensure safe access of the raw material to the markets.
"We will continue to ensure that all fish products sold on the markets, either produced locally or imported, are safe and free from harmful substances," Gongona said.
"We will not allow that fish to be sold to harm and harm the health of the public," Gongona added.
Gongona admitted that imported galung gong may come from Philippine waters that Filipino fishermen could not catch.
"If our fishermen can not catch it within our communal waters, the fish would go out (from our territory)," Gongona said. "It is therefore possible that (a part of) the imports actually came from the Philippines."
This is not the first time the Philippines have imported galunggong from other countries.
The country imports fresh or chilled or frozen fish and fishery and aquatic products, including galunggong for conservation and processing purposes, including imports by institutional buyers such as hotels and restaurants, as permitted by law.
Fish, which contributed 0.7 percentage points to the 5-year high inflation of 5.7 percent in July, were affected by the government's tax reform package, in particular on excise duties on fuel.
The industry said that fish operators are reducing their fishing trips because of higher fuel costs, which reduces the catch of fish on the market. About 70 percent of the production costs of the fishery go to fuel.
The new import starts on 1 September and will be sold for wholesale in Navotas.
The latest market monitoring has shown that galunggong is still sold at P160 to P200 per kilogram compared to the recommended retail price (SRP) for P140.
Even other fish products such as tilapia (cichlids) and milk fish are also sold on P130 and P180 per kg, far above their SRP of P100 and P150 per kg, respectively.