THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it signed an agreement with Pacific Roadlink Logistics, Inc. (PRLI) for the construction of the Philippines’ first cold examination facility in agriculture (CEFA) in Angat, Bulacan.

“Our quarantine officers are more than ready to integrate this infrastructure in developing mechanisms to protect our agricultural borders,” Senior Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban said at the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday.

The CEFA project is funded from the P2.3 billion received from the national budget this year. It is expected to be completed up to eight months.

The facility will feature an integrated laboratory to inspect for transboundary pests and diseases.

“The 2023 national budget provides funds once again for the establishment of such a facility not only in Bulacan, but also in Cebu for the Visayas and Davao City for Mindanao,” according to Senator Cynthia A. Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.

Former President Rodrigo R. Duterte approved the establishment of designated cold examination areas in Manila, Batangas, Cebu, and Davao to contain the spread of African Swine Fever.

“The previous funding allocated for the previous project was not implemented as the DA failed (to proceed) because of the lack of space in the port of Manila,” Ms. Villar said.

“We don’t have first border facilities; that is why diseases easily enter the country to the detriment of the agri sector. All the developed countries have these facilities as part of their food safety and quality in inspection regimes,” she said.

PRLI will be responsible for the construction of the CEFA, in accordance with specifications set by the DA.

All imported agri-fishery products are to undergo a 100% examination by the various food regulators like the Bureaus of Animal Industry, Plant Industry, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, as well as the National Meat Inspection Service.

“From the port of entry, the commodities are brought to the various cold storage facilities, which are beyond our supervision… the CEFA makes it easier to secure the borders,” Agriculture Assistant Secretary James A. Layug said. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera