19th National Tuna Congress Highlights and Completion Updates



This is the brave assertion of the Philippine Tuna Industry in the 19TH NATIONAL TUNA CONGRESS. Held on September 6 to 8, 2017, the annual event boldly tackled much-publicized, if not highly controversial, issues that hound the industry.
The Congress has gathered around 800 participants to both the Plenary Sessions and the Trade Exhibit. Worth noting is the demonstration of support from the most relevant agencies of the government, both local and national offices. We have seen the attendance of the top leaders of the country especially the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Mr. Emmanuel “Manny” Pinol and its Undersecretary for Fisheries, (Ret) Commo. Eduardo B. Gongona who gamely stayed on until the event’s last day.
With the leverage of faster information dissemination of our times, it is the earnest hope of the host organizer, the Soccsksargen Fishing Federation and Allied Industries, that we altogether maintain our stance that indeed, the Philippine Tuna Industry withstands the test of time through strengthened collaborative efforts and continual exploration of competitive ways to further elevate our economic edge.


This year’s Congress has made sure that topics catering to the contemporaneous needs and those that bear a continuing impact to the unique requirements of the tuna industry are served. The bottomline is that it has established the direction of the Tuna Industry to remain strong and responsive to the changing demands of times; endeavour to be globally competitive by finding ways to continually improve our products and methods; and effectively collaborate with relevant sectors to further consolidate actions in achieving common good.
The activities and topics ultimately serve to promote the welfare of the many small fisherfolks composing this industry.


The pressure to strengthen actions to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing pervades various regional fisheries management programs all over the world. And in this Congress, we have had the privilege to work alongside our partners from the USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership as Mr. Geronimo Silvestre, Chief of Party of the USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership, presented THEUSAID OCEANS AND FISHERIES PARTNERSHIP: A REGIONAL COOPERATION TO COMBATILLEGAL, UNREPORTED AND UNREGULATED FISHING AND PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE FISHERIESIN THE ASIA – PACIFIC REGION.

More importantly, we have officially launched the Electronic Catch Documentation System (eCDT), a tool to prevent the entry of fish and fishery products from IUU fishing activities into the supply chains. This is an integrated action that involves and equips not just the medium to large-scale fishers but more significantly, the small scale ones to achieve its planned objectives.

It is inspiring to note that USAID Oceans, in collaboration with the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, has chosen the General Santos Fishing Port Complex and areas around the Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape as a project ‘Learning Site.’

USAID Oceans aims to develop, demonstrate and expand a catch documentation and traceability (CDT) system using a market based approach that promotes sustainable fisheries and builds on the foundation of the ASEAN Catch Documentation Scheme and the Philippines’ existing CDT protocols. The Program is complemented by other components, such as regional coordination and capacity building of regional stakeholders to combat IUU fishing, promote sustainable fisheries and conserve biodiversity; public and private sector engagement and partnership development to ensure uptake and sustainability of the CDT system; and integration of social welfare issues into all aspects of program design.  

UPDATES ON THE USAID OCEANS CDT PROJECT in General Santos City and Indonesia have also been presented by Mr. Farid Maruf (of the USAID OCEANS Fisheries Partnership) and Mr. Zaldy Perez (BFAR). Discussed were the current collaboration and work of Oceans with competent authorities and government agencies in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam as well as partnership work with private sectors and NGOs. Existing initiatives for both large and small scale fisheries were also tackled. Important also was the introduction of how the stakeholders can maximize the use of the Catch Documentation system.

B.   The need for the improvement of the working conditions of our fishworkers has been much publicized recently and this Convention recognizes that as imperative to our inclusive growth. Thus, we have made sure to include these topics to shed light on the said issue: FIELDASSESSMENT OF LABOR IN THE TUNA FISHERIES SECTOR AND GENDER ANALYSIS IN THETUNA FISHERIES SECTOR.

In the first topic, Ms. Claudette Urmeneta, the Capability Building Manager, of Verite (Southeast Asia), discussed the results of the assessment of the labor conditions in the program’s learning sites- General Santos City and Bitung, Indonesia. Recommendations in the study are related to institutional labor governance, labor data management, and data collection for monitoring labor conditions and issues. It roused reactions of varying kinds and degrees from the participants, among which are the concerns on the statistical method used in the research and the interpretation of the same.

In the second topic, Dr. Marieta Sumagaysay of The National Network on Women in Fisheries in the Philippines, Inc. presented empirical evidence on gender differentials along the tuna value chain and expounded on its significance in the promotion of women’s economic empowerment and gender equality.  The study also identified strategic interventions to empower and build the capacity of women along the tuna fisheries value chains in General Santos City and the selected sites in Kiamba and Glan of the Sarangani Bay area. The study should be relevant to this region as both small-scale (municipal) and large scale (handline and purse seine) value chain players were included in the study, together with value chain enablers.

C.   This Congress has achieved another milestone for the Tuna Industry for having organized in this region, one of the final consultations for the NATIONAL TUNAMANAGEMENT PLAN. This plan embodies the framework of actions to promote the effective conservation, management, and equitable use of tuna resources in the Philippines. Among its specific objectives is the protection of the rights of subsistence tuna fishermen, in both municipal and offshore fishing grounds.
Participation of all stakeholders was ensured by securing representatives from the relevant sectors.
Together with the concerns presented by the proponents from BFAR, inputs were consolidated and integrated into the plan, main driving force of which is the realization of inclusive growth. Through this, we are translating our compassion to empower the many into working national policies.

D.   Just recently, the 13th Regular Session of the Scientific Committee was held in Cook Islands, the key agenda of which include fishery data gaps of the Commission; results of the 2017 stock assessments for bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, South Pacific swordfish, and other species; scientific aspects of management issues; and ecosystem and bycatch mitigation tools. Key outcomes from the stock assessments and related management implications was introduced in the presentation by Dr. Sungkwon Soh, Science Manager of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

E.   Considered the most sweeping reform of US food safety laws in more than 70 years, the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA)Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) shifts the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. This bears a crucial implication to the tuna fishing and processing industry so much so that we have it included in our topics to help interested parties – big and small businesses alike - to help evaluate their time, energy and resources needed to address any gaps in their system. Mr. Kevin Edwards, Manager, Global Business Development for the Seafood, covered the requirements for seafood companies and challenged everyone to take a closer look at priority activities such as foreign supplier verification program, risk assessments starting at the boats, filth prevention, and training needs.

F.   As key seafood consuming countries such as US, UK and many European Countries have been establishing stricter requirements that ensure sustainability and traceability, businesses engaged in the fishing, processing and selling of seafood have been bent on finding credible tools and means for verification to establishing assurance systems that protect their investment and public profile. But the essence of these efforts is more on preserving globally traded commodities such as tuna, it being under “enormous exploitation pressures”. We covered two topics regarding RESPONSIBLE TUNA SOURCING that should help our businessmen establish more traceable and transparent systems: one from Mr. Martin Purves, Managing Director of the International Pole and Line Foundation and the other from Ms. Shen Yan Liow, Supply Chain Standards Manager, of the Marine Stewardship Council.


With more than 800 participants representing owners, managers, and top management personnel of fishing companies, logistics and technology suppliers/ service providers and leaders of the various industry partners from all throughout the country and abroad, the 19th National Tuna Congress opened with festivity that lasted for three days in its TRADE EXHIBIT, housing close to 200 exhibitors.
The hustle and bustle of the trade exhibitors was just invigorating and although the preparation was definitely daunting and the execution of plans more nerve-wracking, the outcome was all worth it. Thanks to the support of hundreds of allies from here and abroad and the able hands of our SFFAII Staff, the Trade Exhibit ably facilitated exchange of valuable information with flair and aplomb. Bill Gates once said that, “The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competitors, the best way to put distance between you and the crowd, is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” Surely, from all the dealings made in the Exhibit, a substantial exchange of valuable information would have by now, been materialized into useful tools and methods further expanding the participants’ respective businesses.

The 19th NTC passed 16 resolutions, mostly aimed to further strengthen and empower the industry by redefining national policies and reviewing existing regulatory policies and rules that undermine the role of the Philippine Tuna Industry to the nation’s economic stability and growth.
Aside from reiterating old resolutions that needed attention from relevant government agencies, we have raised the Industry’s stand on the need for the  establishment of a joint standard operating procedure for handling apprehensions of fisherman and fishing vessels in order to expedite repatriation of the same and/or the prevention of unwanted waste of resources. We expressed our strong position against the scope of the proposed Tax Reform and Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN) as far as its excise tax applies to petroleum products. We also passed a resolution encouraging the Local Government Units to support the institutionalization of a Catch Documentation and Traceability System aligned  with BFAR's  initiatives on ensuring traceability of tuna and other fishery  products.
In the local arena, we urged for the establishment of a One-Stop-Shop for the processing of employment related requirements in General Santos City and requesting the creation of the General Santos City Fishport Management Advisory Council.


Truly, the National Tuna Congress has been making significant strides in the history of the Country’s Tuna Industry. It has been strengthened so as to be instrumental for making the different groups come together and become a force to reckon with.
May we be able to sustain the momentum we have thus created. With even more fired up energy, we shall see each other again in the 20th National Tuna Congress!


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SFFAII.COM: 19th National Tuna Congress Highlights and Completion Updates
19th National Tuna Congress Highlights and Completion Updates
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