Philippine tuna at the auction market in General Santos City.Pic by Edwin Espejo

Philippine tuna at the auction market in General Santos City.Pic by Edwin Espejo

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The decision of the European parliament to grant the Philippines GSP+ status will help boost the country’s tuna industry, sources said.

“It will help the tuna industry,” said Richie Rivera, Executive Vice President of RD Group of Companies, holding company of RD Tuna.

Rivera however said the GSP+ status, which lifted tariffs on 6,200 Philippine export products to the European Union, only covered processed and canned tuna products caught by 100-percent Philippine-registered vessels.

“If foreign caught, the GSP+ won’t apply,” Rivera explained.

RD Tuna Ventures has shifted its fishing operations in Papua New Guinea where it also owns a tuna canning plant.

Rivera nevertheless said they are supporting the trade agreement.

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) director Asis Perez on the other hand sees an increase in the volume of tuna exports to Europe following the decision of the European Parliament.

“We have not made any actual calculations as yet,” Asis said.

According to Francisco Buencamino, executive director of the Tuna Canners Association of the Philippines, canned tuna exports to Europe in 2012 reached 3,202,659 cases or 42.5 percent of the country’s export volume of 7,538,093 cases.

The 2012 value of canned tuna exports to Europe reached US$123,295,407 or 44.8 percent of the total US$275,295,399 export receipts of the country.

Industry sources said the inclusion of the Philippines in the EU GSP+ will mean at least additional US$15 million or P660 million in revenues for Philippine tuna exporters.

Increased catch

Overall catch in General Santos for 2014 has already exceeded last year’s total landings.

With the December catch still to be added, the 180,035-metric ton fish landed at the General Santos City Fishing Port Complex this year has already exceeded the 2013 total catch of 167,578.75 metric tons.

Eighty percent of total fish landings in General Santos City are yellow-fin tuna and tuna-like species.

But more than 53 percent of tuna landings in the city are now imported frozen tuna.

A majority of the country’s tuna catch and landing go to the canneries.

Canned and processed Philippine tunas have become a traditional export product of the country with annual export revenues that have now topped the US$350 million mark.

General Santos City is the country’s acknowledged tuna capital with six of the country’s seven tuna canning plants located in the city.