Philippines Pushes Tuna Ban Lifting
By MARVYN N. BENANING
MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala is hoping the government of Papua New Guinea would allow Philippine fishing vessels to catch tuna in its waters.
Alcala said there are talks between Manila and Port Moresby to lift the ban in the seas in Papua New Guinea’s maritime border.
At least three Philippine canning companies have set up shop in Papua New Guinea to take advantage of its tariff-free status in France and in other countries.
Philippine canned tuna is slapped a 24 percent tariff in France while Papua New Guinea’s tuna comes in duty-free.
It is not known if Papua New Guinea would agree as the Philippines’ offer is to teach Papuans how to grow rice, a cereal that the US also wants the rootcrop-eating Papuans to propagate.
Alcala revealed the sweetener to the talks at the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Briefing in Pasay City on Tuesday.
The Philippines wants to avoid the unenviable tag as the world’s biggest rice importer, a title that is said to have been inherited by Indonesia.
Another option is for the Philippines to take in the tuna catch of Papuan vessels since the country lacks processing facilities, Alcala said.
“Their processing facilities are still not working in full capacity. So, we ask them to take a portion of their catch to General Santos City, where we can accommodate a huge volume of tuna,” he said.
This means that the idle canning factories in General Santos will process the tuna and label it as a product of Papua New Guinea.
Alcala said Filipinos own majority of the canning factories in Papua New Guinea.
He said that while Filipinos also consume tuna, the bulk of the catch actually ends up in Japan, the world’s biggest tuna buyer, representing 90 percent of the tuna consumption.
Philippine waters also have tuna but 65 percent is of the skipjack variety, also known as gulyasi, which is preferred by canneries.
Big eye and yellowfin tuna are in great demand for sashimi and sushi worldwide, and they swim in large schools in Indonesian waters en route to Papua New Guinea. Tuna is largely equatorial.
The Philippines has been lobbying for the lifting of the ban imposed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), a treaty-based organization seeking to conserve and manage fish stocks in the Pacific Ocean.
WCPFC’s ban was motivated by the principles of the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), which restricts the use of the global ocean commons to reasonable levels and bars infringements by fishing nations on the rights of the signatories of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).
The PNA members are Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands, all of which are vulnerable to rising sea levels brought about by climate change. They also happen to be responsible for the sea lanes where 25 percent of the world’s tuna supply comes.
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