wet market meat section

THE Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) said it may sue the Department of Agriculture (DA) for failing to provide sufficient meat inspection facilities as required by Republic Act No. 10611, or the Food Safety Act, which it said is exposing the industry to imported animal diseases.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, SINAG Chairman Rosendo O. So said the organization may take legal action if the DA fails to act within the next 30 days.

Mr. So blames the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF), rising pork prices, and the spread of other animal diseases such as avian influenza due to the inability of the Philippines to carefully examine imported agricultural and food products at its ports.

“Without any quarantine control at the port of first entry, we remain vulnerable for the further spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, ASF, and avian flu since imports of all kinds — frozen, chilled, processed (cooked or raw) are easily brought into the country,” Mr. So said.

“It is ironic that the DA remains ambivalently strict in the movement of local agriculture products in the country but continues to allow the unhampered entry of agricultural imports,” Mr. So said.

In a statement, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Director Ronnie D. Domingo said it is in the process of organizing meat inspection activities with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to establish the meat inspection facilities.

Mr. Domingo said that for 2020, the meat inspection facility or Agricultural Commodity Examination Area (ACEA) project for the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) at the Port of Manila has a budget of P521.57 million.

However, the agreement between the BAI and the MICT, which will signify the start of the facility’s leasing and construction, has not been approved by the PPA.

“Four other ACEAs or first border inspection facilities will be established at the Cebu International Port; and Ports of Batangas, Subic, and Davao,” Mr. Domingo said.

Section 12 of the Food Safety Act requires that all imported food be inspected and cleared by the DA and the Department of Health before proceeding to the Bureau of Customs for assessment of tariffs.

In December, the Office of the President set aside P2 billion for the construction of meat inspection facilities. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave