The majority of the processing plants export the canned and frozen product themselves. In order to be accredited to process and export seafood products, a company has to be audited and approved for general hygiene, sanitation standards and procedures and HACCP. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is the competent authority that enforces this through annual audits at each processing plant.
Additionally, each processing plant that wants to export seafood products to an EU member state needs to be “EU approved”. In order to become EU approved a more thorough hygiene and sanitation inspection is performed by the same agency. Here it is important to note that a processing plant becomes approved on a ‘per species’ basis only. So for each species that a company wants to exports, a new approval permit needs to be applied for. By doing so, the BFAR has been able to tightly control the food safety of the products that are being exported in the past years. As a result, the BFAR has improved the previously dubious reputation of the Philippines with regards to the food safety of the products it produces and exports.
In total there are 19 registered processing plants that are permitted to process and export tuna products to the EU. About 75% of these processing plants deal in fresh and frozen products while the remainder focuses on canned products. Processed products are packed in containers and transported by truck to the harbour of choice. Depending on the location of the processing plant, the main harbours that are used for frozen and canned products are in Manila, Batangas, Cebu and General Santos/Davao. However, for the past 3 years the port of Manila has been severely congested and it is advised to use the port of Batangas instead. In most cases, fresh products are produced in small processing plants that are dedicated to producing fresh tuna products only. All fresh tuna exporters are based in Manila and are conveniently located in close proximity to the NAIA International airport. By doing so they are able to ensure optimal quality assurance by minimizing transportation delays in the congested city of Manila.