Tuna players call off annual congress due to pandemic

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Tuna industry players here will launch a series of bi-monthly virtual fora to highlight their situation and efforts to address various concerns amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Andrew Philip Yu, president of the Soccsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. said on Thursday, the online activities will replace the shelved 22nd National Tuna Congress, which was previously held every September.

He said they have canceled this year’s congress, which is considered as the country’s biggest gathering of tuna industry stakeholders, “owing to the health crisis that continues to affect the global community, including the Philippines”.

“This difficult decision has been arrived at after a careful assessment of the present situation,” Yu said in a statement.

He said they will instead hold online fora dubbed “Oras ng Mananagat sa Panahon ng Pandemya” starting September until November.

Yu said the activity is a “proactive decisive move to ensure that the challenges, issues, and concerns confronting the fishing industry are actively attended to and deliberated by all stakeholders, and addressed by our global, regional, national, and local partners”.

In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, he said the area’s fishing and aquaculture industry must move forward while complying with the national government’s safety and health protocols.

“(This is) to ensure that we can sustain our contribution to the Philippine economy and provide a livelihood to a significant number of Filipinos,” he said.

The annual congress, which drew an average of 600 local and foreign delegates these past years, had served as a venue for top industry players to discuss pressing concerns, among them the conservation and management of tuna and other critical marine resources.

It was joined by officials and representatives of various government agencies, as well as non-government groups.

At the start of the enhanced community quarantine last March due to the Covid-19 threat, tuna producers and exporters reported substantial losses due to the suspension of flights from the city to Metro Manila and other routes.

However, it was later remedied with the opening of more commercial cargo flights that brought tuna and other agricultural products to major markets.

Dubbed as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” the city hosts six of the country’s eight tuna canneries.

The industry, which generated export receipts of around P22 billion in 2018, directly employs some 27,290 people and provides livelihood to 109,160 others through various secondary activities. (PNA

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