General Santos City--The country will continue to enjoy fishing privileges in Indonesian waters following the signing of a five-year extension of an agreement between the two countries yesterday.
The fishing agreement effectively extended the country's access to Indonesian fishing grounds until 2011.
Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panganiban and Indonesian Minister of Marine Affairs Freddy Numberi signed the new accord.
"The tuna industry means a lot to the Philippines and the document we signed means a lot to the Filipinos, from the fishing crew to the Philippine fishing operators, to the fish processors and traders and exporters," Panganiban said.
It took the Philippine negotiating team a year and two failed bilateral talks to extend the contract for another five years. The Philippines entered into a one-year interim contract with Indonesia prior to the signing of the new agreement .
The new contract replaced the one-year interim agreement set to expire on Nov. 11 this year.
The previous agreement signed in 2002 allowed Filipino fishing vessels to harvest tuna and tuna-like species within the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
It gave licenses to 75 catcher vessels, 150 fish carriers, 20 long liners, 300 light boats and 10 single purse seiners, and allowed access to the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas of the Indonesian EEZ. It also provides offloading and resupply access to 10 Indonesian ports.
Marfenio Tan, president of the Socsargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc., said additional provisions in the fishery pact will be discussed in 2007, which includes parameters for joint venture deals.
The new agreement covers new areas of cooperation in aquaculture; marine capture fisheries through joint venture; postharvest, fish processing development and marketing; coastal management and development; marine fisheries conservation; combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices; research activities; education and training and environmental protection.
Panganiban said the new fishing pact would help the local tuna industry compete against other tuna fishing fleets in the region.
"It will also help the industry comply with the emerging restrictive trade regulations that pose a threat to out tuna exports in major markets such as the European Union and the United States," Panganiban said.
Local fish processors export tuna to Europe, US, Japan and neighboring countries. Tuna accounts for about 12 percent of the country's total fish production, bringing $280 million in annual exports, mostly in the form of canned tuna, high-value sashimi tuna and tuna steaks.
Total annual tuna catch was estimated at 400,000 metric tons. The industry generates more than 100,000 jobs. The Philippines ranks second in tuna catches in the world, next to Taiwan and fifth in terms of canning with US in the lead, followed by Thailand, Spain and Italy.