Presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos claimed that galunggong or round scad, which he stressed was “for the poor,” is the fish “easiest to raise.” There is no basis for his claim because research on galunggong aquaculture is still ongoing, and experts have no conclusions on its feasibility.
During a March 8 interview on DZRJ, Marcos Jr. said he cannot understand why the Philippines is importing galunggong:
“Ang pinakamadaling alagaan ay galunggong. Hindi ba pang-mahirap nga dapat iyan? (The easiest to raise is galunggong. Isn’t it supposed to be for the poor?) You can get that anywhere, tapos nag-i-import tayo (and [yet] we’re importing)? … That describes the terrible state that we have allowed our agri [sector] to come into.”
Marcos was reacting to an announcement from the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Jan. 18 that the country will import 60,000 metric tons of fish, including galunggong, due to a projected decrease in supply in the first quarter of 2022 that could raise market prices.
In deciding to import fish, the DA said it factored in the significant damage in the fisheries sub-sector due to Typhoon Odette that battered Visayas and Mindanao last December and the reduced production with the fishing season over.
No data has established that galunggong is “easiest to raise” among other aquatic species, as claimed by Marcos Jr. According to Josette Emlen Genio, a licensed fisheries technologist/aquaculturist, research on its feasibility for farming is still at the “exploratory stage.”
“No [it’s not the easiest to breed], because in the first place, there is no established farming technique yet for galunggong. The research has just started … and [is] in [the] exploratory stage,” Genio told VERA Files Fact Check, adding that “100%” of the galunggong in the local market come from the wild.
She cited the ongoing research on galunggong breeding by the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD), which announced on March 3 that its researchers spawned the “world’s first captive-bred” galunggong in December 2021.
In a press release, Dan Baliao, chief of SEAFDEC/AQD, an organization funded by the Philippine government to develop techniques to grow new aquatic species in captivity and for hatchery, among others, said that they want to grow the fingerlings to “market sizes” to prove that galunggong farming is possible. SEAFDEC/AQD, founded in 1973, is the same institution that pursued research on breeding bangus (milkfish) in the 70s and 80s.
“We are excited to roll out the technology and promote the culture of galunggong so prices may become more affordable as farms can surely augment the catch from the wild,” he said.
Although research to establish farming or aquaculture technology of fish takes many years or even decades, Genio noted it “doesn’t even guarantee commercial viability.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at least 580 aquatic species are currently farmed through aquaculture around the world. Aquaculture involves breeding and farming of fish and other aquatic species in freshwater, brackish water, and marine areas, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
In 2020, galunggong was ranked third in the country’s top commercially captured fish species, next to tamban (Indian sardines) and gulyasan (skipjack).
As of March 11 this year, the DA reported that the prevailing market price of local galunggong in Metro Manila was P240 per kilo and the imported ones were at P180, higher than milkfish (bangus) at P160 and tilapia at P120.
Samantha Geraldine De los Santos, researcher and head of the Knowledge Management Office at the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Public Affairs and Development, explained that climate change is one of the factors affecting the low catch of galunggong in Philippine waters. She said the lack of food and “unfavorable” conditions in the surrounding waters force the fish to migrate to other sea areas where they could survive.
“Ang resulta? Napakaliit na catch or huli pero napakalaki ng ginawang trabaho at kapital (e.g. krudo, yelo) na ginamit mahanap lang sila … ‘Yung catch per unit effort ang nag-e-explain kung bakit napakamahal ng galunggong or bakit ini-import natin,” she wrote in a March 8 Facebook post.
(The result? The catch is too little for the amount of effort and capital (e.g., crude oil and ice) used to find them. The catch per unit effort explains why galunggong prices are high or it has to be imported.)
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DZRJ, (Presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos interview), March 8, 2022
Philippine Statistics Authority, Special release, Oct. 22, 2021
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Aquaculture, Accessed March 11, 2022
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, REGISTERED AQUACULTURE FARMS (As of March 1, 2022), March 1, 2022
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, About Us, Accessed March 9, 2022
Department of Agriculture, FROM THE FISH SITE: Researchers close the life cycle for round scad | Official Portal of the Department of Agriculture, March 7, 2022
Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD), Research breakthrough seen to curb shortage of ‘poor man’s fish’ – SEAFDEC/AQD, March 3, 2022