Despite warnings from the Department of Health and Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas in the alleged presence of formalin in the fish being imported to the Philippines, Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that they will proceed with its plan to import the fish.
Even Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director and Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Eduardo Gongona assured that public that no formalin was injected in the samples of galunggong collected from Balintawak Market, Cubao Farmer’s Market and Navotas Fish Port.
Gongona explained by saying that formaldehyde naturally develops when fish dies.“It must be noted however that based on the laboratory analysis, low levels of formaldehyde were detected.”
But Piñol maintained that the DA will import galunggong and also explained that the country has been importing galunggong for a long period of time with estimated 136,000 metric tons of the fish entered the local market last year.
The Agriculture Chief said, “Why we are importing galunggong is because the closed fishing season will soon start and there will be a huge reduction in the catch. We really have to put up a system that will be able to supply the needed fish in
the market and importation is one.”
“We are not importing just to address the price but it is also part of our fish conservation program,” Piñol added.
BFAR assures the public that it is in close coordination with other government agencies to ensure safe entry of the commodity into the markets.Gongona said, “We will continue to remain vigilant in ensuring that all fish commodities that are sold in the markets, either locally sourced or imported, are safe and free from any harmful substances. We will not allow that fish to be sold will affect and harm the public’s health.”
Gongona admitted that imported galunggong may have actually come from Philippine waters that Filipino fishermen were not able to catch. He theorized by saying, “If our fishermen cannot catch those within our municipal waters, the fish would likely go out of our territory and it’s possible that some of the fish being imported could actually come from the Philippines.”
In the latest market monitoring of the prices of fish, it showed that galunggong is still being sold at P160 to P200 per kilogram compared with its suggested retail price (SRP) of P140. While other fish commodities like tilapia (cichlid) and milkfish are also sold at P130 and P180 per kg, way above their suggested retail price of P100 and P150 per kilo.