Newly-elected Mayor Darlene Magnolia R. Antonino-Custodio is eyeing to make the city the “Tuna Capital of Asia.”

General Santos is the recognized “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.”

Custodio, an opposition stalwart in the previous Arroyo administration and now a supporter of the Aquino administration, said the local tuna industry has the potentials to beat Thailand, the world’s largest producer of canned tuna.

“The challenge is why should we settle for the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines” title when we can be called Asia’s tuna capital,” she said recently.

To do that, Custodio stressed there’s a need to make the city’s fish port complex competitive with the port of Thailand, so the locality will become the choice of port of international fishing fleet.

It is also essential to upgrade the city airport to become a world-class facility, she said, adding the first of a series of facelifts is underway with a funding of P30 million from the national government coffers.

Custodio, previously the representative of the first district of South Cotabato for three terms, said among her administration’s top economic thrusts would be to continue enticing investment capitalization for the improvement of major infrastructure facilities.

They will also aggressively push for the passage for the long-sought establishment of the General Santos City Economic Authority, to attract more investments, the mayor said.

This city hosts six of the country’s seven tuna canneries.

Miguel B. Lamberte, Jr., local chief of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority, which manages the fish port complex, lauded the target of the city hall to make the complex a major international fishing port of call.

He noted the local fish port is now capable of handling large ships, citing the completion more than a year ago of two wharves measuring a total of 430 meters that can accommodate 7,000 gross metric ton vessels.

These wharves have docking capability of nine meters deep, he added.

“We are talking with foreign fishing firms for them to prefer General Santos as a landing destination," Lamberte said earlier.

From international fishing grounds, it will only take six days for carrier vessels to reach this city, compared with 15 days to Thailand, the fisheries executive said. (Romer S. Sarmiento)

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