Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 7 director Aster Caberte, citing lack of proof, downplayed the allegation of Cooperative Development Authority administrator Benjie Oliva that a cartel is behind the longstanding problem on exorbitant fish prices in the province.
Caberte on Monday said that Oliva’s statement which pointed out the existence of a fish cartel comprised of only a few families and individuals who control fish costs in the province needed concrete evidence.
“It’s a very serious allegation, it’s not that easy,” she said in English and Cebuano. “You need vast data to prove it.”
According to Caberte, expensive fish in the province is merely a result of the lack of supply amid a strong demand for aquamarine products in the province including Tagbilaran City.
She compared the fish supply in wet markets in Bohol and those of other provinces wherein there are many suppliers who have enough products to meet demand.
“You have to analyze the supply and the demand situation. You look at the markets here and compare the number of sellers to that of buyers and see if they are enough,” she said.
“There are demands through tourism and the disposable income of Tagbilaranons through OFWs which are very strong compared to the very little supply of fish and other aquamarine products in our markets,” she added.
The DTI official also urged local government officials including those in Tagbilaran CIty to compare the situation of fish markets in Bohol and other localities such as Dumaguete City where there are abundant fish products from multiple suppliers.
“They can start by looking at the supply chain and let market administrators, legislators and players from the private sector examine neighboring fish markets,” Caberte said. “Then they can invite them, the suppliers, to Tagbilaran and flood it [with supply].”
Meanwhile, the Sannguniang Panlalawigan (SP) is set to invite Oliva to an ongoing inquiry on the province’s fish problem to further elaborate on his previous statement on the existence of a fish cartel in Bohol.
Other stakeholders and officials in the fishing industry are also expected to attend the probe, said SP committee on agriculture chair Board Member Abeleon Damalerio during the first day of the investigation on Tuesday. (Allen Doydora with a report from Rey Tutas)