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Plan to lift white shrimp importation ban criticised

PHILIPPINES - A coalition of fisherfolk organizations yesterday criticized the plan of the Department of Agriculture to lift the ban on the importation and culture of Pacific white shrimp (Peneaus vannamei) on or before Wednesday.

The NGOs for Fisheries Reform (NFR) said the lifting of the ban could place the local shrimp industry in danger of imported diseases and in becoming dependent on foreign sources for shrimps.

The NFR said government is attempting to railroad its decision and skirt socio-environmental safeguards and the issues raised by community stakeholders against the foreign shrimp species.

Arsenio Tanchuling, executive director of Tambuyog Development Center which is a member of the NFR, said the government is "hell-bent on rushing" to amend Fisheries Administrative Order 207 (FAO 207) to exempt the Pacific white shrimp from the import ban on foreign shrimp species.

"But the problem is that the draft amendments do not include any socio-environmental safeguards or protocols that will prevent socio-environmental costs and the spread of shrimp diseases that can affect coastal communities," Tanchuling said.

The National Agriculture and Fishery Council (NAFC) announced in its meeting last Dec. 6 that Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap is set to approve on or before Dec. 20 the amendments to FAO 207 that will exempt the Pacific white shrimp from the importation ban.

The DA issued FAO 207 in 2001 prohibiting the importation and culture of imported live shrimps, except for educational and scientific purposes, after viral diseases suspected to have come from the P. vannamei destroyed shrimp farms in Negros.

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