DISPLACEMENT of workers in the country's tuna capital that was brought about by the closure of high seas in the western and central Pacific Ocean is only temporary, a shipping magnate told Sun.Star Davao.
Marfenio Tan, president of the South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos City (Soccksargen) Federation of Fishing Association, said there are about two to three canneries in General Santos City that will lay off workers.
"About 200 workers from each company," Tan said. "But this is only temporary."
Labor chief in General Santos City Patricio Blanza confirmed this, saying there are more than 200 workers displaced, the latest of which was the short-term work stoppage of Phillips Seafoods Philippines Corp. that affected at least 29 workers.
"There's no sufficient volume of yellowfin and bigeye tuna species for their processing operations," Blanza told a local television network.
Phillips Seafoods, which is engaged in the processing and export of frozen tuna products, was also forced to suspend operations to curb further losses, Blanza said.
Drewzel Shipyard and Services Inc. and NH Agro Industrial Corporation have also informed them of operational disruptions, which could last for six months, as triggered by the closure of the high seas in the Pacific Ocean to purse seine fishing.
Bayani B. Fredeluces, executive director of the Soccsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc., said in an earlier interview that the affected firms informed the local Labor department of their situation for possible assistance to the displaced workers.
The federation is expecting more workers in the fishing sector to become jobless in the next few months, as members of the South Cotabato Purse Seiners Association (Socopa) have committed during a meeting in December to comply with the closure order issued by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
For two years starting last January, the WCPFC banned at least two pockets of the Pacific Ocean to purse seine fishing, which normally employs fish aggregating devices to catch tuna stocks.
The international governing body issued the order to allow yellowfin and bigeye tuna species to replenish.
An initial forecast released earlier by Soccsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. (SFFAII) said tuna catch from purse seine fishing is projected to decline by as much as 20 percent as a result of the closure.
With the closure of the high seas in the Pacific Ocean, most Filipino purse seine operators -- those who have no joint fishing venture agreements with firms from tuna-rich Pacific island-nations -- would have to fish in the country's over-fished exclusive economic zone, which is 200 nautical miles from the shoreline.
The Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco) has proposed for the realignment of workers and work arrangement to minimize the loss of jobs.
"What we want is for the workers to continue working, even if they are put on rotation," said Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana, Medco chair.