Vietnam, Taiwan, China to ship tons of ‘galunggong’ to PH

MANILA — At least 17,000 metric tons of galunggong or roundscad from Vietnam, Taiwan, and China are expected to be shipped to Metro Manila by next month, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said on Thursday.

This, as he has allowed the importation of galunggong for 90 days starting Sept. 1 to boost local supply and prevent price increase in the staple Filipino fish dish.

“For Metro Manila, an initial 17,000 metric tons of galunggong from Vietnam, Taiwan, and China is expected to be imported by fisheries stakeholders, including fishing boat operators, who will hang their nets during the closed fishing season, and organized fish vendors associations,” Piñol’s Facebook page post said.

Aside from helping ensure food security and stabilize price of galunggong Piñol said such importation will provide the opportunity for the fish to spawn during the annual three-month closed fishing season starting November.

“The closed fishing season is strictly implemented in different fishing grounds of the country to allow fish species like ‘tamban,’ galunggong, mackerel, and others to spawn and reproduce,” he said.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is developing guidelines for the country’s importation of the fish.

This is to protect the public from shipments contaminated with formalin and other harmful substances, it explained.

On Wednesday, BFAR announced the Philippines will start importing galunggong, a staple in Filipinos’ meals, in September.

Concerned BFAR units are already drawing details of the guidelines, which aim to ensure that only galunggong imports fit for human consumption will enter the country and reach the markets.

Importation and unloading of galunggong will be in accordance with such guidelines, BFAR Director Eduardo Gongona said.

“The imported galunggong will be unloaded only in BFAR-accredited cold storage facilities and will undergo thorough inspection to ensure the fish commodity that will enter Philippine markets is safe and free from harmful substances,” Gongona said in a statement on Wednesday.

Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) warned that the galunggong the country will import might be tainted with formalin, a solution used as preservative even for human cadavers.

Gongona said BFAR and the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority will strictly monitor the importation and unloading of the commodity.

“This is not the first time the Philippines imported galunggong from other countries. The country has been importing fresh/chilled/frozen fish and fishery/aquatic products, including galunggong, only for canning and processing purposes, including importation undertaken by institutional buyers like hotels and restaurants, as allowed by the law since years ago,” he added.

Fisheries Administrative Order 195 series of 1999 allows such importation.

BFAR hopes to come up with the guidelines this month, since Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol already issued last week the Certificate of Necessity setting the forthcoming galunggong importation period for 90 days, beginning Sept. 1 this year “or until earlier revoked by the Secretary of Agriculture.”

This week, BFAR reported gathering galunggong samples from Balintawak Market and Farmers Market in Metro Manila to test for possible presence of formalin and other harmful substances.

Results of the laboratory testing might be available before the weekend, BFAR said.