Consular offices remain shut

CONSULAR offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Metro Manila and nearby provinces will remain closed after the strict lockdown was extended until April 11.

In a statement on Sunday night, the agency said the consular offices in Aseana, Parañaque City, Antipolo City in Rizal, Dasmariñas in Cavite, Malolos in Bulacan, and San Pablo in Laguna would remain closed.

Passport applicants would be accommodated after the enhanced community quarantine. Applicants will get an e-mail with their new appointment schedules, DFA said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Saturday extended the enhanced community quarantine in the capital region, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan to curb a fresh surge in coronavirus infections.

The government initially put the areas under a strict lockdown from March 29 to April 4. A curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. was also imposed. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Suspect in justice’s murder charged

THE NATIONAL Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has filed murder charges at the Justice department against the suspect in the killing of a former appellate court magistrate.

The complaint for the murder of former Court of Appeals Justice Normandie B. Pizarro was filed on March 23.

The NBI found “glaring inconsistencies” between the suspect’s statements and the CCTV footage of the incident secured by the NBI Special Task Force.

The Justice department had assigned the case for preliminary investigation, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said in a mobile phone message on Monday.

Mr. Pizarro’s body was found decomposing in the village of Lawy in Capas, Tarlac province in October.

NBI forensic experts in November said his death was caused by a gunshot wound to the head. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Food inspection facilities sought

AN ADVOCACY group on Monday urged the government to fast-track the construction of food inspection facilities at major ports across the country to ensure the quality of imported products.

The country needs food inspection facilities after a report revealed the excessive use of antibiotics at fish farms in China, Asis G. Perez, convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan, told an online news briefing.

He cited a research paper published in the Marine Environmental Science journal that showed antibiotics were building up along China’s coastline and had been found in fish and other marine life.

Waters near some farms in Guangdong and Bohai Sea had reached an antibiotic concentration of 2 micrograms per liter of seawater, equivalent to putting 20,000 penicillin pills in a standard swimming pool, according to the research paper.

It said prohibited antibiotics such as fulfathiaole, chloramphenicol and erythromycin had been  found in the waters.

“Overuse of antibiotics can lead to the development of drug-resistant superbugs in the long run,” Mr. Perez said. “This is a food safety concern that needs to be addressed since we import from countries like China.”

He noted that in 2019, the country imported $174.16 million worth of fishery products from China including baby shrimps and tilapia.

“We should not discriminate in terms of inspection and testing,” he said. “All imported fish and other food items, for that matter, should be tested for antibiotics and diseases, regardless of their country of origin.”

“The industry is always ready to support government initiatives, especially when it comes to food safety, in any way it can. In the absence of first border inspection, perhaps the government can consider accrediting third-party testing centers to do the job,” he added.

The country’s first food inspection facility at the Port of Manila was expected to be finished by yearend, Ruth S. Miclat-Sonaco, a program director at the Agriculture department, told an online news briefing in March.

She said similar facilities were also planned to be set up in Batangas, Subic, Cebu and Davao by next year. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave