Vendors, consumers decry escalating price of 'galunggong'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 2) — Vendors and consumers of round scad or “galunggong” are having difficulty coping with the escalating price of the so-called poor man's fish.

At the Balintawak Market in Quezon City, for instance, fish retailers are having a hard time selling the product due to its high price. A kilo now costs at least ₱120 or ₱20 pesos higher than before.

According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the average price of “galunggong” nationwide is ₱143 per kilo. In Metro Manila it's at ₱160 while in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the country's poorest region, the fish is sold at ₱184 per kilo.

Luzviminda Suarez, fish vendor in Balintawak, said they have no choice but to take less profit since they can no longer raise their prices.

"Wala pong dating na marami,konti lang po ang dating ng isda, maalon po kasi ngayon bagyo eh, madalas bagyo hindi ho ba?" she said.

[Translation: There are less fish delivered now because of the sea current due to bad weather.]

Jhambee Madrigal, who often includes fish in his market list, now chooses to buy milkfish or “bangus”. He said even if the latter costs ₱170, it's still worth his money compared to the more expensive yet smaller “galunggong”.

"Medyo mahal kasi eh, dati ₱45 lang yan kalahating kilo ganun," he said.

[Translation: It's more expensive, before half a kilo would cost just ₱45.]

Another fish retailer Romeo Manliclic said they have no choice but to re-sell “galunggong” imported from neighboring countries like China, Taiwan and Vietnam, which they can buy and sell these at cheaper prices than those caught in domestic waters.

"Kasi po minsan pag walang ano yun lang ang inaasahan namin eh, frozen.. mura yun, kumikita ka naman din," Manliclic said.

[Translation: Sometimes we only rely on frozen, imported “galunggong”. It's cheaper and we earn somehow.]

However, he also said some customers don't like the taste of “galunggong” from China.

As a result, some vendors opt to stop selling imported “galunggong”. Among them is Jovita Sengco.

"'Yun yung frozen ata na sinasabi eh hindi naman mabili eh, hindi nga pinapansin dito sa palengke," Sengco said.

[Translation: Frozen, imported ones are not patronized, they are ignored here.]

The government has already imported 17,000 metric tons of “galunggong” to control the surging inflation.

But rumors of imported “galunggong” tainted with formaline are making government's efforts more difficult.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources says it has tested the imported stock and results came out negative for formalin.

Agriculture chief Manny Piñol even ate imported “galunggong” along with rice which he says came from stocks infested by "bukbok" or weevils.

Bukbok infested rice is another problem the Department of Agriculture is facing after about 200,000 sacks were discovered in Albay.

Pinol insisted the rice is edible.

"Ito po yung kanin na may bukbok... Pwedeng kainin... Pakita ko sa inyo... “Galunggong” na may formalin... Walang formalin ito," Pinol said.

[This rice is infested with bukbok, it's edible, let me show you. These “galunggong's” have no formalin.]

But for fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA, these antics and the policy of importing rice and “galunggong”!would make local poor producers even poorer.

The group staged a protest at the arrival of the imported “galunggong” at the navotas fish port Saturday morning.

Economist Emmanuel Leyco, meanwhile, doesn't believe importing “galunggong” would lower inflation. He says other factors influence prices, top of these are excise taxes.

"Galunggong” is a symbolic commodity, a staple of the poor but not the only major input that influences food prices," Leyco said.

CNN Philippines' Robert Vergara contributed to this report.