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The Philippines is a hot spot of sea cucumber (balat) in Asia.
Dr. Marie Antonette Meñez of UP Diliman quoted that “Over 40 commercially important sea cucumber species out of 100 species is found in the Philippines. From 1984 to 1993, Philippines is the number one sea cucumber producing country but now ranks third; Sri Lanka at rank one, followed by Indonesia.
With this, the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards (BAFPS) whose mandate is to set and implement standards for fresh, primary- and secondary- processed agricultural and fishery products spearheaded the formulation of Philippine National Standards (PNS) for dried sea cucumber.
A technical Working Group (TWG) was created for its drafting and series of consultative meetings to include Zamboanga City as one of its venue. The TWG is composed of representatives coming from BAFPS, Department of Agriculture, Department of Science and Technology, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, University of the Philippines Diliman, University of the Philippines Los Baños and University of the Philippines Visayas.
Recently, a consultative meeting for the PNS draft was held at the Grand Astoria Hotel. Fifty participants coming from the private sectors, Local Government Unit of Zamboanga City and Government agencies actively interacted with the group.
A draft was presented by the TWG for comments and revisions of which output will again be deliberated in two other consultative meetings in Cebu City and Palawan. The final deliberation will be in Quezon City.
One of the issues discussed was the selling of sea cucumber in small sizes that is not within the premium grade size. This will contribute to low buying of ‘balat’ and unstable fisheries thus depleting our stocks.
Other problem identified is the poor quality of dried products. The poor quality would also devalue the product. Presented recommendations to this problem include: set product quality standards; improve processing and drying technology; and enhance the ‘balat’ value.
The creation of the PNS will strengthen the Dried Sea Cucumber industry and ultimately bring back the Philippines as the top producing country. (ytavellaneda/DA9)
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