The government is eyeing Catbalogan City in Samar province as the country’s model for fish drying with the operation of the newly-established common service facility for fishery products.
The joint venture project of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Department of Science and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry, and Samar’s provincial government is expected to benefit about 200 processors in the province.
“DA envisioned to make Catbalogan the model city for fish drying, which is up to international standards in food safety and value-added products accepted for export,” BFAR 8 (Eastern Visayas) Director Juan Albaladejo said in a phone interview on Thursday.
The PHP3.5-million facility will have clean rooms for processing, clean supply of fresh and marine water, and drying facilities that are clean and free from possible contamination from flies, dust and fomites.
“Making Catbalogan the hub of dried fish products will help sustain the livelihood of fishermen in the area and hopefully reduce poverty among its ranks,” Albaladejo added.
The fish processing center in the city’s Payao village is seen to curb illegal fishing and eradicate poverty. Samar is the 14th poorest province in the country with a 49.5-percent poverty incidence in 2016.
Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan said Catbalogan has been engaged in the dried fish business for decades, but these producers have remained poor.
“With the facility provided to help dried fish makers, this will help the city to graduate from being a small-time cottage industry employing traditional techniques on drying fish to a more sophisticated enterprise acceptable to the global market,” Tan said.
On January 5, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol visited the processing center, along with BFAR National Director Eduardo Gongona. The officials handed over to local producers a solar fish drying facility, five upright freezers, and one blast freezer worth PHP1.22 million.
“The equipment will help the organization in augmenting the production, specifically for one-day-old drying of fish or commonly called ‘labtingaw’ or ‘lamayo’, which is a product that it is highly sought by Filipino communities abroad,” Albaladejo said.
Piñol also tasked BFAR and dried fish producers’ groups to work on a business plan for the acquisition of an automatic fish drying equipment to further boost the production of dried fish.
Current production capacity of the equipment is at 4.8 metric tons per year, but once another dryer is commissioned, they can produce up to 100 metric tons per year.
Catbalogan is 112 km. north of Tacloban City, the regional capital. Jesuit priests founded Catbalogan in 1616 and became the capital of the entire Samar Island. Today, the city is a major commercial area in Samar with a population of 103,879. (PNA)
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