The P100-million Seafood Processing Plant built by the Korean government for Dagupan City is not designed for commercial operation, having a gross capacity of only five tons per day.
This was maintained by Dr. Westly Rosario, who was designated interim manager of the plant in addition to his duties as chief of the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center (NIFTDC), a research facility of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Dagupan.
Rosario reasoned out that if the plant was intended for commercial operation, the Korean government would have donated a bigger facility that is capable of processing 100 tons of fish per day, such as the bigger fish processing plants in some countries in Asia and even in Norway.
That was why Rosario sustained the position taken by Pangasinan Fourth District Rep. Gina de Venecia who voiced out her strong opposition to the privatization of the facility, preferring the plant to be in the hands of the BFAR which has the necessary expertise to run the plant as a research and service facility.
The congresswoman fended off efforts of the Dagupan City government to take over the facility and eventually turn it over to a private party which will lease it, thereby closing its door to small-time fish processors now making use of the plant who want to improve their products in order to increase their income.
Rosario said when availing of the services of the plant, the small fish processors pay only nominal toll fees of P20 per kilo, of which P15 goes to the deboners hired by the facility and only P5 to the management.
This P5, he said, goes straight to the national coffer to at least cover the cost of operating the plant in terms of electricity cost.
This is the reason why Rosario rejected a proposal of a group of Korean and Taiwanese exporters who came to him two days ago seeking full explosive use of the plant for a certain period of time so that they can process fish for export.
He said the idea is not good because this would close the door for small fish processors who are now making use of the plant from time to time, thus defeating the very purpose for which the facility was put up.
It was Rosario and then Dagupan City Mayor Alipio Fernandez Jr. who sent a formal proposal to the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) seeking P100-million grant for the establishment of a seafood processing plant in Dagupan after then Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. arranged this with higher Korean officials.