Category Archives: business

2014: Banner year for Gensan fish catch

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Despite widespread anxieties over rapidly declining tuna stocks, 2014 was a banner year for General Santos City as total fish landings at the fishing port complex reached 193,867.55 metric tons (MT), the highest in 12 years.

The 2014 figure was a hefty 14 percent increase over the 167,578.75 MT total catch in 2013.

Approximately 92 percent of the total fish landings in General Santos City are tuna and tuna-like species with more than 80 percent going to the canning and processing plants here.

It is the third consecutive year that fish landings in the city had increased over previous year levels after a significant decline in total catch in 2011 when the total reached only 112,890.81 MT.

The 2011 total landings was the lowest in six years and was likewise 27 percent lower than the previous year total of 143,139.17 MT in 2010.

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Tuna imports

Last year’s total catch was however boosted by frozen tuna landings which reached 92,387.36 MT in 2014 or 47.65 percent of the total landings.

Tuna canneries in General Santos City began importing frozen tuna both from Manila and other foreign origins in 2008 after local tuna catches began to slacken.

Over the last 7 years, 53 percent of the tuna canning requirements have been supplied by frozen tunas coming from Manila (23.38 percent) and from foreign imports (76.62 percent) for a total of 537,491.88 MT from 2008 to 2014.

Without frozen imports, locally produced tuna catch in 2014 (101,480.19MT) still fell short over the 105,690.21 MT landings by local tuna producers in 2007.

Local production dipped at its lowest in 2011 when the catch figure reached only 47,993.66 MT, the lowest since 2003.

Despite declining tuna stocks, 2014 saw a record landings for General Santos City, the country’s Tuna Capital.FOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

Declining stocks

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which has been monitoring global tuna stocks and data catches, began raising alarms over overfishing of tuna stocks at the turn of the millennium.

In 2009, member countries of WCPFC agreed to a 2-month annual ban on tuna fishing using fish aggregating device.

It expanded the ban to complete ban on purse seine fishing operations in 2 Pockets of High Seas in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean while also extending to 3 months the annual ban on FAD fishing.

The ban on purse seine and FAD fishing operations in the High Seas began in 2010.

In 2012, however, the Philippines was granted 2-year exemption to the ban on purse seine fishing in Pocket 1 High Seas. The exemption has since been extended.

The Philippines is among its 26 member countries and eight member territories in the Western and Central Pacific region.

It is a signatory to several conservation measures including ban on the annual FAD fishing which runs from July to September every year.

WCPF blamed the alarming depletion of tuna stocks to overfishing and climate change.

Local producers and tuna fishing operators also attributed the decline in local catch to increasing protectionism among countries in the tuna-rich WCPFC areas, including neighboring Indonesia which began requiring Filipino fishing operators to invest in processing and manufacturing plants to gain access to its fishing grounds.

Indonesia earlier required Filipino fishing vessels operating in its fishing grounds to hire Indonesian crew.

In 2006, Indonesia opted to terminate its bilateral fishing agreement with the Philippines, sending Filipino fishing operators scrambling for other fishing grounds.


It forced several Filipino super seine operators to establish canning and processing plants in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

Among the general Santos City-based Filipino fishing companies that are now largely operating outside Philippine fishing grounds are RD Fishing and TSP Marine.

Also maintaining operations in Papua New Guinea is Frabelle Fishing, the country’s largest tuna fishing company while Damalerio Fishing is operating in Indonesia.


DTI releases P26M for SMEs

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Region 12 has distributed around P26 million worth of machinery and equipment this year to help improve the operations and competitiveness of various enterprises in the region.

Blaan weavers will hopefully improve their still crude abaca spindling method with the help of DTI.FOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Blaan weavers will hopefully improve their still crude abaca spindling method with the help of DTI.FOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

Ibrahim Guiamadel, DTI Region 12 director, said Monday the initiative is part of the continuing implementation in the region of the agency’s flagship Shared Service Facility (SSF) Project.

He said they released the machineries and equipment in the form of project grants to 54 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) based in parts of the region.

Also known as Soccsksargen, Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

“The grants were aimed to improve their products and enhance their market competitiveness,” Guimadel said in a statement.

The official said the DTI central office had allotted a total of P54.2 million for 83 SSF project grants in the region this year.

SSF was launched by the DTI to assist the expansion and address the development needs of MSMEs in the country.

Guiamadel said the initiative aims to help local MSMEs produce more products of better quality and at a lesser production cost.

In Region 12, the priority industry clusters that are covered by SSF program are abaca, bamboo, coconut coir, processed fish, processed food, wearables and homestyles, cacao, coffee and rubber.

The units are provided for free to the beneficiaries but will remain the property of the DTI for six years upon their awarding or release, he said.

He said their ownership would be transferred to the beneficiary after the prescribed period by way of donation or sale.

Among the project’s major accomplishments in the region this year was the establishment of a mechanized milking facility in Malungon town in Sarangani in partnership with a local dairy cooperative.

Guiamadel said they released last October two units of portable cow milking machines to the Malalag Cogon Bangkal Dairy Farmers Cooperative to expand and enhance its operations.

He said the automatic milking machines were the first for the cooperative since it started producing fresh cow’s milk about three years ago.

Two weeks ago, Guiamadel said they also turned over four units of abaca spindle stripping machines to a group of weavers based in Barangay Lamlahak in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

He said the machines will mainly improve the quality of abaca fibers that are used in making the province’s popular T’nalak fabric.

The shift from manual to mechanized mode hastens the processes involved in the production of T’nalak by 50 percent, he said.(AE)

Gensan fish catch on pace to break 2013 total

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Total volume of fish catch in General Santos in November went down slightly compared to October, according to the data released by the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) here.

But overall catch for 2014 has already exceeded last year’s total landings.

Philippine yellowfin tuna are sought after in upscale Japanese restaurants in Los Angeles.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Philippine yellowfin tuna are sought after in upscale Japanese restaurants in Los Angeles.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

With the December catch still to be added, the 180,035.54 metric ton partial total 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.

More than 80 percent of total fish landings in General Santos City are yellow-fin tuna and tuna-like species.

A total of 15,363.81 metric tons of yellowfin tuna and tuna-like specie were landed at the General Santos City Fishing Port Complex, down from the October total catch of 16,807.44 metric tons.

Counting all fish species, the total fish landing for the month of November also went down to 16,618.29 metric tons from 18,139.17 tons.

Frozen tuna continue to grow as 59.4 percent of the total landings came from foreign as well as Manila-based suppliers.

Foreign vessels unloaded a total of 8,646.39 metric tons at the General Santos City fish port complex.

The remaining 480.4 tons came from Manila-based frozen tuna suppliers.

Total tuna catch this year is on pace to a 6-year high.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Total tuna catch this year is on pace to a 6-year record high.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

The Pocket 1 High Seas are closed to tuna fishing every August and September of the year.

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Asis Perez had earlier said Philippine tuna catch will likely increase as more Filipino fishing boats have already returned to the Pocket I High Seas following the 2012 tragedy where more than 372 Filipinos were caught in the eye of Super Typhoon Pablo (Bopha).

Of the 372 Filipino fishermen from General Santos city who were caught in a perfect storm in the high seas ion December 2012, only 18 bodies were recovered.

The rest remain missing and are presumed dead by now.

General Santos is acknowledged as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines.

Six of the country’s 7 operating tuna canning plants are located in the city with over 20,000 workers directly employed by the industry.

Over the last 5 years, total volume of tuna catch has been on the rise following a steep decline in tuna catches in the early 2000s.

This prompted the WCPFC to institute measures to arrest the decline of stocks in the tuna-rich fishing grounds of western and central Pacific Ocean.

Among the measures are 3-month ban on FAD fishing in 2 pockets of high seas in the Pacific Ocean and strict vessel monitoring.

The Philippines was granted exemption in Pocket 1 High Seas in 2011 and started sending catching vessels to the area before Pablo struck in 2012.

Filipino tuna fishing operators resumed operating in the area last year.

SoCot rushes infra projects to boost tourism

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The provincial government of South Cotabato is pushing for the completion of its ongoing tourism development projects in the next two years in a bid to enhance the area’s thriving tourism sector.

Lake Sebu is South Cotabato's premier tourist attraction.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Lake Sebu is South Cotabato’s premier tourist attraction.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said the local government is pouring in additional investments next year to include opening of new tourism circuits, access roads and related facilities.

She cited the ongoing construction of the P120 million circumferential road that will connect the famed seven waterfalls of Lake Sebu town.

The project, which is funded by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), is due for completion next year.

TIEZA opened last October the bidding for the concreting component of the road project, which was aimed to improve access to the seven falls and other tourism areas in Lake Sebu.

Fuentes said they are currently finalizing the plans for the development of the canopy walk and installation of cable cars along the seven waterfalls as well as the opening of the lakeshore boulevard in Lake Sebu.

She said they are also working on the operationalization of the Lake Lahit tourism facility and the opening of the small-scale mining leg in T’boli town, fruit park in Tupi town, and the biodiversity corridor of Tampakan and Tupi towns.

“We will also open next year additional facilities at our improved Productivity and Technology Center (Protech),” she said.

The Protech Center, which is located in Koronadal City, hosts a “pasalubong center” and a trading area for various local products.

Fuentes said these initiatives are all aimed to attract more tourists to the province.

The local government recorded nearly 300,000 tourist arrivals from January to September and it expects the figures to further increase until yearend.

Anna Liza Mondejar, tourism officer of the province’s arts, culture, tourism, sports and museum promotions unit, said the province’s tourist arrivals reached a total of 293,727 during the first three quarters of the year.

She said the total domestic tourists or visitors reached 291,515 while the foreigners totaled 2,212.

Tourists who opted for overnight stay in the area reached 169,781, of whom 682 were foreigners.

For the same day visitors or excursionists, those from the province reached 110,264 while visitors from other areas reached 12,162. Foreign visitors reached 1,520.

Lake Sebu, the province’s banner tourism site, was the most visited area, followed by the tarsier sanctuary in Barangay Linan in Tupi, Mt. Matutum in Polomolok, Lake Holon and Mt. Melebingoy in T’boli.(AE)

New airline opens Gensan-Mla route

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Tigerair became the latest airline to service the Manila-General Santos route following its maiden flight Friday afternoon.

A sister company of Cebu Pacific, Tigerair will initially fly 5 times a week bringing the average number of daily flights here to six to accommodate more than 1,000 passengers flying out of this city every day.

Like Cebu Pacific, it will also offer budget fares with the lowest one-way ticket starting at P2,008.

Tigerair's Atty. Leilani de Leon (in yellow T-shirt) and General Santos City Vice Mayor Shirlyn Bañas (second from right) cut the ribbon to signal the presence of the newest airline to fly the MLA-Gensan route.  Also in photo from left are General Santos City Airport admin officer Dante Fernandez, Atty Paoo Acharon and DOT regional director Nelly Nita Dillera.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Tigerair’s Atty. Leilani de Leon (in yellow T-shirt) and General Santos City Vice Mayor Shirlyn Bañas (second from right) cut the ribbon to signal the presence of the newest airline to fly the MLA-Gensan route. Also in photo from left are General Santos City Airport admin officer Dante Fernandez, Atty Paoo Acharon and DOT regional director Nelly Nita Dillera.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

“Tigeriar looks forward to offering additional flight and destination options for tis guests,” Tigerair legal and corporate affairs chief Leilani de Leon said.

Department of Tourism Regional Director Nelly Nita Dillera said Tigerair’s entry into the Manila-General Santos City route will augur well for the region.

“It will boost the local economy and provide additional facilities for connectivity,” she described Tigerair’s decision to service the increasing passenger traffic in General Santos City.

Tigerair will use the Airbus 320 aircraft which has a capacity of 180 passengers.

It will depart Manila at 12:30 pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays and will arrive in General Santos at 2:20 pm. On Mondays, it will depart Manila at 2:00 pm with scheduled arrival of 3:50 pm.

The return flight will leave General Santos at 3:00 pm every Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. On Mondays, it will depart at 4:30 pm and at 3:10 pm on Thursdays.

In addition to Tigerair, also already servicing the Manila-General Santos City route are Philippine Airlines which uses the wide-bodied Airbus 330-300 and Cebu Pacific.

Air Asia will likewise soon open its daily flights to this city.

General Santos City became the hub of air passenger traffic following the entry of budget airlines which competed against seafares of super ferries that eventually stopped plying the Manila-General Santos City sea route.

Dillera said this has boosted tourism in the region with a total of 1.67 million arrivals from January to September.

General Santos City Airport administration officer Dante Fernandez said they expect passenger traffic to increase to more than 1,600 a day during the Christmas season.

The Department of Transportation and Communication has already submitted a P900-million budget for the proposed new airport terminal building in General Santos following the increase in passenger traffic over the last few years.

The airport, funded on USAID grant, was built in 1993 and opened to commercial operations in 1996.

When it was finished, it had the longest airport runway outside of NAIA with more than 3,000 meters of all-weather taxiway.

SoCot town eyes ban on aerial spraying

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Officials of Surallah town in South Cotabato are planning to ban aerial spraying in agricultural plantations in the area due to its hazards to human health and the environment.

Surallah Vice Mayor Pinky Divinagracia said they are working on the passage of a proposed ordinance that would prohibit the use of the aerial spraying method by a banana plantation company operating in the area.

She said the municipal council’s committee on environment will begin next week a series of public consultations and the gathering of evidences and other vital information that would support the measure.

The vice mayor earlier met with members of the committee to properly set the required processes for the passage of the proposed ordinance.

She said these include the gathering of water samples from rivers and waterways within the municipality that were reported to have been affected by the continuing aerial spraying of pesticides by banana plantation firm Sumifru Philippines Corporation.

More local government units are seeking ban on aerial spraying in banana plantations.FILE FOTO
More local government units are seeking ban on aerial spraying in banana plantations.FILE FOTO

The official cited waterways situated in portions of Barangays Lamian and Veterans, which host the banana plantations of Sumifru. 

The water samples will be sent to a laboratory facility based in Davao City for proper testing, she said.

“The results of the water analysis will be used as evidence against aerial spraying,” Divinagracia said in an interview over radio station dxMC Bombo Radyo.

Fr. Francisco Romano, parish priest of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Surallah town, lauded the local government’s efforts regarding the problem.

But he said they will push for the immediate passage of a resolution that will set a moratorium against aerial spraying in the area pending the passage of the proposed ordinance.

Hundreds of residents barricaded the runway of the community airport in Surallah last week in protest of the aerial spraying activities of a banana plantation company operating in the area.

Around 300 protesters gathered at the Allah Valley Airport and occupied a portion of the runway in a bid to stop the aerial spraying activities of foreign-backed Sumifru.

The company, which operates banana plantations in Surallah and T’boli towns, had been using the airport as base of its aerial spraying operations.

Omar Azarcon, coordinator of the protest action, said they launched the mobilization to pressure local government leaders in the area to decisively put a stop to the aerial spraying activities of Sumifru.

Citing results of their recent fact-finding mission in the affected areas, Azarcon claimed that they have documented three deaths and numerous cases of various illnesses that were directly caused by the aerial spraying activities.

He said they also found a significant number of residents who have been suffering from various illnesses like asthma and contact dermatitis in the affected communities.(AE)

DTI showcases Region 12 products

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Region 12 has launched a new branding strategy to enhance the promotion efforts for various products from the region.

Ibrahim Guiamadel, DTI Region 12 director, said Friday they have adopted the “Treasures of Region 12” as the collective brand for existing and new products developed by the area’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Showcasing Region12's products and delicacies.Pic by Edwin Espejo
Showcasing Region12’s products and delicacies.Pic by Edwin Espejo

The new branding strategy was launched by the agency and MSMEs in the region with the opening on Thursday of the four-day regional trade fair at the atrium of the SM mall here.

“The objective of this is to enhance the promotion of our products, further expand their markets and increase their sales,” Guiamadel said.

The official said they are giving special attention on new products that were developed through interventions and support services of the agency.

The regional trade fair features 50 booths that showcase products and services of MSMEs in various industry clusters of Region 12.

Also known as Soccsksargen, the region comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

The region’s priority MSME industry clusters are bamboo furniture, processed food, fish, coffee, cacao, coconuts, wearables and homestyles.

Among the featured products are the ready-to-drink calamansi juice from Banga, South Cotabato; dried mango pandan from Polomolok, South Cotabato; organic rice coffee from Maitum, Sarangani; coco sugar from Malapatan, Sarangani; and, designer bags made of T’nalak fabric cuts from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

The MSME showcase includes the preserved and processed food products of Mommy Juling’s based in Polomolok, South Cotabato; baked and processed products of the Trappistine Monastery in Polomolok; and, processed fruits of Kablon Farms in Tupi, South Cotabato.

Aside from the trade fair and product display, DTI-12 launched side events as well as trainings and seminars for MSMEs and interested residents.

These include “Patok na Negosyo” techno trainings on making trendy beads, pinasugbo, special tamarind and sweet potato candies, siomai and veggie balls, and buko and pineapple pie.

The agency also launched packaged corporate giveaway collections featuring products from the region.

Each giveaway item packaged in a designed basket, cost P500 to P900 each.

DTI's trade fair and exhibit is now ongoing at SM City Gensan.Pic by Edwin Espejo
DTI’s trade fair and exhibit is now ongoing at SM City Gensan.Pic by Edwin Espejo

“We’re promoting these to large companies, schools, government and private offices and other entities,” said Dorecita Delima, DTI Region 12 assistant director.

She said local entities may offer or give the packaged items as Christmas gifts or other related purposes to their personnel and clients.(AE)

Tuna industry robust on PH inclusion in EU GSP+

A possible inclusion in the European Union generalized system of preferences plus (GSP+) will provide the Philippine tuna industry the much needed shot in the arm, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Inclusion in the list of GSP+ countries will mean lifting of the tariffs on hundreds of export products from the Philippines, including canned tuna.

“With GSP+, we hope to improve our share of EU’s fresh and processed tuna market as it will give our products a better fighting chance,” said Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

At present, tuna exports to the European market are subject to 20.5% duties while tuna exports from competitor countries such as African, Caribbean and Pacific countries have been enjoying a zero tariff.

Workers at a Philippine tuna canning plant.PIC BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Workers at a Philippine tuna canning plant.PIC BY EDWIN ESPEJO

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 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.

“In terms of availment, there is no doubt that GSP+ will increase capacity utilization of canned tuna processing capacity, now estimated only to be about 55%-60% of daily capacity of +1,300 tons per day,” Buencamino said in the 15th National Tuna congress last year.

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

Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. recently reported that the European Union has posed no objection into the application of the Philippines to be included the list of beneficiary countries of the EU’s GSP+ system of tariff preferences.

The application is now reportedly headed to the European Parliament for deliberation.
The Philippines must however continue to observe and comply with 27 specified international conventions in the fields of core human and labour right, the environment and good governance.

It must also strictly follow ratified conventions by the world tuna governing body – the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

Among them is traceability and HACCP compliance.

Industry sources from the local tuna industry said the lifting of tariffs and duties on Philippine tuna export to EU could come as early as the second of next year.

“Definitely, this will be a big boon to the tuna industry which has seen the tapering down of growth in the last decade,” the source who requested that his name be withheld.

The source said the industry must face strong lobby from tuna-producing countries in Europe who are likely to resist the inclusion of the Philippines in the EU GSP+

Malaysians bullish over Bangsamoro

Story by Bong S. Sarmiento

DAVAO CITY—Malaysian companies are now positioning themselves as they look forward to the creation of the Bangsamoro region following the singing of a peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Har Man Ahmad, senior manager for ASEAN unit and former Embassy of Manila Trade Office (MATRADE Manila) commissioner, said Malaysian businessmen are looking for possible joint venture with local corporations for oil palm and rubber plantations in the Mindanao.

More than 50 Malaysian companies attended the 2nd BIMP EAGA-IMT GT trade fair held recently in Davao City in a bid to forge partnerships with Mindanao investors and from the other participating countries.

The Malaysian government brokered the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Peace is a very important factor [in putting up an investment],” he said in a press conference,” Ahmad said in a press conference.

A bill seeking the establishment of a new autonomous region in Mindanao to replaces the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has already been transmitted to Congress.

The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law will give the new autonomous region greater political power and control over natural resources in the proposed Bangsamoro region.

According to the oil palm industry profile prepared by the Mindanao Development Authority in October 2011, the country has about 55,000 hectares of land planted with oil palm, 80 per cent or 44,000 hectares of them in Mindanao. For rubber, the island reportedly has 137,000 hectares as of 2011.

A joint Filipino-Malaysian venture in oil palm industry has existed in Mindanao through the Agumil Philippines Inc.

“We [also] want to explore business opportunities through direct supply, distribution or partnerships,” Ahmad said.

BIMP EAGA stands for Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area, an initiative launched in 1994 to accelerate the growth of less developed areas of the participating countries.

IMT GT stands for Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand Growth Triangle, which was formed a year ahead of BIMP EAGA.

MATRADE Manila Trade Commissioner Nyaee Ayup said they are aggressively promoting the Malaysian products and services closer to the BIMP EAGA market, which they considered as an important sub-region in Southeast Asia.

“Mindanao is a new market to us,” Ayup said.

The major Malaysian companies that took part in the trade fair include Labuan Corp, TNB Remaco and MDS Consultancy Group Sdn Bhd.

The others were Duha Edar Sdn Bhd, Azaib Holdings Sdn Bhd, Ambang Dorongan Sdn Bhd, Millions Star Trading Sdn Bhd, I-Tim Holdings Sdn Bhd, Forest Interactive Sdn Bhd and Adtech Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

The top performing goods traded from the region include coal, seaweeds and agricultural products from Indonesia; tuna, banana and pineapple from the Philippines; timber and palm oil from Malaysia; and petroleum from Brunei.