BIZ BUZZ: ‘First border’ raising questions | Inquirer Business

BIZ BUZZ: ‘First border’ raising questions

/ 02:06 AM July 25, 2023

Some stakeholders in the agriculture sector are rejoicing over the creation of the country’s first cold examination hub.

Located in Angat, Bulacan, the so-called ‘first border’ facility features a laboratory that will test all imported animal meat, fish and other perishable items. The objective is to ensure food safety, prevent the spread of animal diseases and fight smuggling. The project is a joint undertaking of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and a private company.

Wait, what? Bulacan?


While long-awaited, last week’s launching of the Cold Examination Facility for Agriculture (CEFA) is apparently raising a lot of eyebrows and some questions.


For starters, the facility is located around 50 kilometers from Metro Manila. This means that, under normal traffic conditions, it is roughly two hours away from the Manila International Container Terminal.

If shipments from the Ports of Batangas and Subic are included for 100-percent inspection, that’s easily worth 2.5 to 3.5 hours of transit time, respectively. This is on top of the actual inspection and the return trip, which could take much longer.

Time and distance aside, the question on every importer’s mind is this: Who will shoulder the extra cost of bringing the containers to and from the facility? How much is the inspection fee and to whom shall this be paid?

If it will be charged to importers, this could mean additional cost of doing business that would most certainly be passed on to Filipino consumers.

According to Biz Buzz sources, the DA is spending millions to build a state-of-the-art laboratory on private land. But as to how and why that Bulacan facility was chosen remains a mystery.

Some say use of the land was offered for free. But as we know in these parts, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. There’s talk that the landowner – Pacific Roadlink Logistics, Inc. – will provide hauling services to move the containers, for a fee.


Of course, the other questions on the minds of agri stakeholders are whether the project went through a public bidding, considering that government money is involved? If yes, when was it held and what were the terms of reference? On the other hand, if it is an unsolicited Public-Private Partnership project, how come nobody heard of any Swiss challenge procedures?

And perhaps more intriguingly, if the project had the blessing of President Marcos, who is the concurrent agriculture secretary, why was he conspicuously absent during the project launch?

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TAGS: 'first border', Agriculture, Biz Buzz, Business, facility, testing

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