A FISHERS group called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to scrap its plan to import fish and instead push for quick and concrete rehabilitation of the livelihood of affected local fisherfolk whose fishing gears and boats were swept away by the recent typhoon.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said that importation of frozen fish for areas in the Visayas and Mindanao that were hit by Typhoon "Odette" will "not stabilize the fish supply and market prices."

Instead, Pamalakaya asked the Agriculture department to "expedite its rehabilitation efforts on the devastated coastal communities to help the fisherfolk return to their fishing livelihood."

"Instead of importation, we call for a quick and concrete rehabilitation of the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of fisherfolk... This action would restore the wheels of production and stabilize the supply and prices of fish in the typhoon-hit areas," said Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairman.

The fishers' group reminded the DA on the negative effects of importation to local and small fisherfolk, as imported fishery products drive down farmgate prices.

Hicap, former Anakpawis party-list representative, pointed out that "the immediate impact of importation would be felt by small fisherfolk whose local products would be outcompeted by imported fish."

Furthermore, Pamalakaya called for the lifting of the Fisheries Administrative Order 167-3, which established a three-month closed fishing season across the Visayan Sea from November 15 last year until February this year.

The closed fishing season covers at least 33 coastal towns from Bicol, Central and Western Visayas. In Panay Island alone, Pamalakaya noted that the fishing ban covers nine and four coastal towns in the provinces of Iloilo and Capiz, respectively.