Press Release
January 31, 2010


Senator Mar Roxas said today he is working on government assistance for about 75,000 workers facing job loss anxieties due to a two-year tuna fishing ban in Western and Central Pacific that started January 1.

Roxas has filed Senate Resolution No. 1548 so the Senate trade and commerce committee that he heads can start working with government and industry executives the best form of employment and livelihood assistance for tuna industry workers and other related industries affected by the fishing ban.

He said the Senate will also work with the government plans to protect the country's top-dollar earner tuna canning industry which is projected to lose one-fifth of its tuna requirement because to the fishing ban.

Roxas said the government must also prepare for prices of canned tuna to go up as the international supply tightens.

The two-year ban on purse seine fishing imposed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission took effect on January 1 this year and covers fishing grounds parallel to Palau, above Papua New Guinea and below Micronesia and near the Solomon Islands.

The Commission was established by the United Nations Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, of which the Philippines is a member.

Roxas said it was imperative for the Senate to come up with a legislative measure that would "strengthen trade laws, conventions and agreements on the tuna industry, protect stakeholders dependent on tuna fishing and cushion the effect of the ban on the market, particularly on consumers."

He also said it was important to determine if government could forge bilateral agreements with other countries in relation to sharing the ocean's resources, noting that access to tuna-rich fishing grounds is "vital to the tuna industry" since more than 50% of the country's annual tuna catch come from international waters.

Roxas said the projected 20% drop in the country's tuna supply because of the fishing ban would adversely affect the country's tuna trade, particularly the fishing industry in General Santos in Mindanao, which is popularly known as the "Tuna Capital of the Philippines."

The tuna industry accounts for 12% of the country's total fish production and generates an estimated $280 million in annual exports. Tuna accounts for almost $1 billion circulating in the national economy with Mindanao the biggest beneficiary with the tuna industry's fishing and production facilities valued roughly at P6 billion.

In General Santos City alone, the tuna industry comprise 60% of the local economy, supporting 75,000 direct jobs and generating about $160 million in foreign exchange earnings.

"The drop in tuna supply will inevitably cause a spike in tuna prices to the prejudice of not only tuna traders and fishermen, but also domestic and international consumers, which consumption also has a direct bearing and impact on the country's trade standing and development," Roxas said.

He added "the projected decrease in the output of the tuna industry would undoubtedly cause an adverse impact on the stability of the tuna trade in the country, particularly that in General Santos City, where 6 of the country's 8 tuna canneries and 12 of the country's 15 tuna processing plants are located."

"There is a real and genuine need to address the ban on tuna fishing in order to protect and preserve the country's national interest relative to its domestic and international tuna trading position," Roxas stressed.

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