By: Melody Mendoza Aguiba
The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) supports the call of the Samahan ng Industriya sa Agrikultura (SIK) for government to suspend importation of pork until a genuine quarantine system is in place at Customs borders.
That policy will not only ensure animal protection from infection of the dreaded African swine fever (ASF). It will also ensure that proper tariffs and duties are paid.
The government—the Bureau of Customs (BOC)—currently does not have the full capability to carry out strict biosecurity system that will guarantee that no imported meat products infected with ASF will enter the country.
These BOC deficiencies include the absence of refrigerated facilities where the meat products may be adequately inspected for quarantine systems by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the system for proper collection of tariffs and duties.
These deficiencies derail implementation of proper animal and food safety along with proper revenue collection from meat imports.
“The current ‘make-do’ second border system inside the cold storage facility of the importer is meaningless in terms of proper collection of tariffs and duties, quarantine and food safety,” said PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.
Such government practice of allowing meat imports to be directly transported to warehouse of importers before these are evaluated for quarantine procedures and charged with tariffs and duties have long been questioned by agriculture stakeholders.
“The Bureau of Customs has no refrigerated facilities within the Port of Manila which has prevented the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) from implementing quarantine protocols,” Fausto said.
Poultry and livestock industry stakeholders have long recommended that all meat imports should just go through a single port with the necessary facilities for a full quarantine process.
The agriculture stakeholders have asserted government’s role in implementing biosecurity systems against ASF will be crucial.
Likewise, all local government units (LGUs) should consistently impose on all backyard hog raisers to obtain business permit for their operations even as some LGUs do not even know that hog backyard raisers exist in their jurisdiction.
LGUs will have a critical role in this biosecurity system considering that nearly 70 percent of all hog production in the Philippines comes from backyard raisers.
“LGUs should be held liable on the control of African swine fever within their area,” said Fausto.
At the same time, even sari-sari store operators should be monitored for keeping business permits through which a system may be implemented on controlling consumption of meat that may be affected by the disease.