Sardine factories suffer losses as Zambo conflict continues

Posted at 09/10/2013 4:43 PM | Updated as of 09/10/2013 4:43 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Business in Zamboanga has ground to a halt, as the standoff between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front rebels continued for a second day.

In particular, operations of sardine factories have been affected in Zamboanga, which is known as the sardine capital of the Philippines.

In an interview with ANC, Mindanao Business Council vice chairperson Teresita Uy-Sebastian said banks and factories have been closed since the violence started on Sunday evening.

"(We're) very sad because there has been no business since yesterday. We are on a standstill," she said.

Sardine factories are suffering losses of at least P2 million a day because of the situation, as their workers are unable to go to work.

"I was just talking to owner of our biggest sardines factory, Family Sardines, Anita Lee Kaw (president of the Universal Group of Companies). I was talking to her and asking whether the operations had stopped and she said, 'yes, since yesterday, there wasn't any operations in the sardines canning factory because we were not allowed to move around and people kept to their homes so no workers reported'," Sebastian said.

"And they are the ones absorbing a big chunk losses on a daily basis and even fishing is affected. They still have supplies which cannot be unloaded specifically because there is no manpower to do this."

Sebastian estimated there are between 35,000 to 40,000 workers in the canning and fishing industry.

"Operations had stopped --I was just asking early on, Anita Lee Kaw, how many losses are you absorbing daily? No less than P2 million a day. And there are about more than 10 canning factories in Zamboanga City. There is a big loss in the sardines factory business," she said.

More than the financial losses, Sebastian lamented that the image of Zamboanga and Mindanao have once again been tarnished.

"We have been receiving reports that the US embassy, UK, Canada, giving advisories to their people to more or less avoid Zamboanga and other parts of Mindanao. So it is the not only Zamboanga that is affected by this crisis," she said.

While banks and nearly all offices near the conflict areas have been shuttered, Sebastian noted some stores in other parts of the city have started opening as the government beefs up security.

While the standoff continues, the MBC vice chairman believes Zamboanga will be able to bounce back quickly.

"People are 'sanay' to this kind of conflict so our psyche is it is always business as usual for us. But the psyche of our international community is something else. And on that one, we need to depend on a lot of different people--the tri-media and everyone else to help bring back the image of Zamboanga to normalcy, as well as the other parts of Mindanao," she said.