THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA) needs to implement a risk-based method for determining which agricultural import shipments to inspect, a University of the Philippines economist said.

Ramon L. Clarete, chief of Party of the B-Safe Project and a University of the Philippines School of Economics professor, said costs will rise if the DA goes ahead with its plan for 100% inspection of all agricultural cargoes.

“We are against smuggling and importation of unsafe food. But to do this (inspection) in every case is really just crazy. It is mind boggling how the DA can do that,” Mr. Clarete said during a webinar over the weekend.

“We need to have a risk-based strategy of conducting this inspection. Otherwise, it imposes a huge burden on the part of importers,” he added.

According to Mr. Clarete, the sanitary and phytosanitary clearance system does not incorporate a risk-based management strategy since it requires the registration of all products, regardless of the risk profiles of goods.

“If true that there is 100% inspection of all goods covered by sanitary and phytosanitary measures under the first border inspection, the plan may be just another illustration of a weak understanding of what a risk-based management system requires,” Mr. Clarete said.

On June 30, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar met with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairperson Wilma T. Eisma on the DA’s proposal to use a 2,000 square-meter lot at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone for an agricultural import inspection facility.

The DA and the SBMA have reached an agreement in principle for the construction of the facility, pending approval from the SBMA Board.

“Once operational, the facility will conduct full and thorough inspection of containerized agricultural commodities through risk assessment, complemented by x-ray screening of the Bureau of Customs. This means all farm, fishery, meat, and food imports will be subjected to 100% sampling and laboratory testing,” the DA said.

“Each facility will feature controlled temperature systems that will capacitate quarantine officers to thoroughly inspect the contents of an identified high-risk containerized shipment and prevent the possible spread of hazardous biological agents, such as toxins, and radioactive elements carried by imported agricultural products,” it added.

Other inspection facilities are also planned for the ports of Manila, Batangas, Cebu, and Davao. Funding for the facilities is P521 million, provided by the Office of the President. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave