MANAGEMENT OF SEAFOOD PLANT
IT was a “no” go for the scheduled signing last Tuesday of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) that was set to pave the way for the joint management of the Seafood Processing Plant in Barangay Bonuan Binloc by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Dagupan City government.
The MOU was set to be signed in Dagupan by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala for the Department of Agriculture, BFAR Director Asis Perez, and Mayor Benjamin Lim.
But Monday afternoon, BFAR Regional Director Nestor Domenden and Director Westly Rosario of the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center received calls from their head offices informing them that the scheduled signing of the MOU was cancelled.
No explanation was given by the two officials on the cancellation but city hall observers speculated that Fourth District Rep. Gina de Venecia may have blocked the MOU signing.
A visibly upset Lim, in a talk to newsmen at city hall on Wednesday, said he believed that Representative De Venecia, indeed, had something to do with the aborted signing.
Still others believe that only President Benigno Aquino III could have ordered the cancellation of the event for reasons still not know to DA officials. Despite the cancellation, however, BFAR’s Perez still came to Dagupan Tuesday and had a closed-door meeting with Lim, Vice Mayor Belen Fernandez, several councilors, and other Dagupan officials.
De Venecia has been vocal about her opposition to the planned joint management of the plant.
Perez said efforts will continue to attempt a resolution to the impasse that was not expected and denied the problem rests with his office.
“We are ready to sign. The ball is in your [local government] court. Our role concerning this matter is to facilitate the process and to satisfy the concerns of the parties,” Perez said.
In a statement issued by city hall, Lim said, “The Executive office and Sangguniang Panlungsod have agreed to review the provisions of the MOU and amend any provision if necessary in 30 days.”
Had the MOU been signed, it would have given way to the formation of an executive committee which would eventually arrange for the transfer of the plant to a third party that will lease it.
NOT FOR BUSINESS
In an earlier statement, De Venecia said the status quo with BFAR currently operating the city-owned plant as mandated by the previous city administration in a resolution should be maintained.
“That is for the people, not for business purposes,” De Venecia said.
She pointed out that the plant, whose funding was sourced by her husband, former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. from the Korean government, was never intended to be used as a profit center for the city government.
De Venecia said the original intent for the construction of the plant is to provide not only a facility for market research and product improvement to make Dagupan’s seafood products competitive but to help the fisherfolk process their own produce at a minimal cost so that they can earn more from selling their final products domestically and overseas.
She said this was the clear understanding with former Mayor Alipio Fernandez Jr. and the BFAR which was supported by the Korean government.
On the other hand, Lim, who is pushing for the privatization of the plant, asserts that the resolution turning over the plant’s management to BFAR is not a completed agreement since it was not signed by the former Agriculture secretary and the former BFAR chief.
Lim said no private firm has been identified to operate the plant and that a bidding will be conducted.
“We will pre-qualify. We will set criteria on who will qualify and publish it in newspapers so that qualified bidders could now come in,” he said in a statement.
He said that the under the proposed MOU, Dagupan retains ownership and, the city will gain income without investing any amount of money from the city coffers,” he added.
Councilor Brian Lim was scheduled to sponsor a resolution in the city council Monday authorizing his father, the mayor, to enter into an MOU with the DA through the BFAR for the management and operation of the plant by the city government.
But Lim himself did not show up at the council session last Monday which was later cancelled because of the absence of a quorum.
In a statement, the younger Lim said, “Ideally, a private corporation with enough capital will run the SPC.”
Meanwhile Vice Mayor Fernandez reportedly told the closed door meeting that De Venecia should be included in the ongoing talks since the plant is part of her district and it was her husband who was instrumental in getting its funding.
“Had it not been for Speaker JDV’s efforts to source donation, this fish processing plant would not had been built,” Fernandez said.—with reports from Eva Visperas, CIO