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Border facility for farm products inspection ready by year’s end

/ 04:08 AM March 16, 2021

Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Monday assured commercial and smallholder farmers—particularly those engaged in poultry and livestock —that the government was on track to build the country’s first border facility this year.

Dar confirmed in a phone interview that he and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade during the weekend agreed on the location of the agriculture commodity examination area (Acea) at the port of Manila—this after a year of delay brought by lengthy bureaucratic processes.

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This brings the infrastructure a step closer to completion, although industry groups welcomed the news with guarded optimism.
Dar said they were aiming to finish it on or before the end of the year.

“Both the livestock and poultry sectors are afraid that the latest strain of African swine fever (ASF) may pass through our borders,” Chester Warren Tan, chair and president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., said. “The assurance given by the DA (Department of Agriculture) is not enough because ASF was still able to enter the country two years ago even though they said that we only import from ASF-free countries. They should finish the first border facility.”

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It was earlier this month when Chinese scientists discovered new strains of ASF that were said to be milder but highly transmissible. Dar said the Philippines had not recorded any ASF cases with the latest strain yet.

The construction of Aceas in the country’s major ports has been collectively pushed by the biggest agricultural organizations in the country.

President Duterte already allocated P2 billion for the project, P500 million of which was already approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the Acea in Manila.

Rieldrin Morales, director of the Bureau of Animal Industry, said they were now finishing the project’s bill of materials—a requirement before the DBM releases the funding.

Once finished, the Acea would allow a 100-percent inspection of farm commodities at the first entry, especially those on high risk or “alert order” status.

For now, the Bureau of Customs runs a “close open” examination, which means literally opening and closing trucks to avoid spoilage and contamination.

Only when the shipments have been delivered to the National Meat Inspection Service are the commodities examined thoroughly.

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The Acea will also have a controlled temperature environment and a laboratory that will allow the immediate testing of samples.

It will also feature an incinerator to ensure the safe disposal of agricultural products with quarantine violations, although Morales said its location was still in contention.

Aside from stricter biosecurity protocols, the facility will also be instrumental in combatting smuggling. INQ

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