Gov’t to restrict entry of food imports to 5 major ports
Imported agricultural products will soon be allowed to be shipped and unloaded only in the country’s major ports as part of the government’s intensified campaign on food safety and inspection.
This was the commitment made by Agriculture Secretary William Dar in a meeting with industry stakeholders on Tuesday, a month after President Duterte approved the establishment of designated cold examination areas (DCEAs) in major ports in Manila, Batangas, Subic, Cebu and Davao.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) earlier said this move would enable the government “to have a 100-percent examination of all imported agricultural products,” unlike now wherein the Bureau of Customs could conduct only a “close-open” examination of shipments to avoid spoilage and contamination.
Following the spread of the African swine fever (ASF) in Luzon, there have been calls for stricter regulations on food. Just recently, two supermarkets in Quezon City were found selling meat tainted with the ASF virus.
Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura chair Rosendo So blamed the continuous spread of the hog disease to lax border control, noting that the source of ASF in the country were smuggled meat products from ASF-infected China.
“We really need to implement the ‘quarantine first’ policy and we laud the DA and Customs for taking action,” he said.
The establishment of DCEAs in the country’s major ports and restricting the flow of imported agricultural products to these sites are expected to sharpen the government’s tools in deterring smuggling and ensuring food safety.
While no timeline has been given for this new scheme, Dar said he was set to meet with Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero to iron out details of the plan.
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