The Tuna Festival in General Santos City is an annual week-long festival highlighting the significant role of the tuna industry -- the city's primary source of income.
Tuna industry in the Philippines
The Philippines annually produces approximately 400,000 metric tons of tuna with a value of P18 billion (about $330 million), of which about 85 percent (roughly P15 billion or $280 million) is exported to various regions, including Japan, the US, and Europe, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
General Santos is one of the largest exporters of sushi and sashimi-grade tuna to North America, Europe, and Japan. The local tuna industry provides direct and indirect employment to at least 100,000 fisherfolk, laborers and factory workers. Six of the country’s eight tuna canneries are based in this city.
In 2007, a total of 33 percent or 183,000 metric tons of the national output of tuna was recorded and the total output was placed at 9.5 billion representing a third of the country's total output.
In 1998, during the 30th City Charter anniversary of General Santos City, the General Santos City Tourism Association - a consortium of hotels, resorts, restaurants, travel agencies, and other tourism-related establishments, then chaired by Mrs. Liwanag Ferrer - staged an event at the Halieus Mall (now RD Plaza), that showcased tuna cuisine through culinary competitions, exhibits, and other activities. Then mayor Adelebert W. Antonio thought that the theme could actually be the basis for a festival.
The week-long celebration features different events and activities focusing on the tuna industry of the province. Among these are the annual Tuna Congress, the Tuna Fiesta Carnival, the Tuna Culinary Skills Competition, the Sashimi Night, the Fish Dance Competition, Miss GenSan Pageant, the Bodyfest Modeling Competition, and the Float Light Parade.
Aside from food exhibitions and several other competitions, the festival also highlights the annual Karagatan Awards. This event, organized by the Tuna Festival Council and local government, honors "the unsung heroes of the fishing industry" by giving them awards.
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