By MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR
The Philippine government plans to establish five border examination facilities across the country as part of measures against the entry of plant and animal diseases like African swine fever (ASF).
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the Cabinet already approved the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) proposal to build ₱2-billion border examination facilities in the country. These will be built in Davao, Batangas, Cebu, Bataan, and Manila.
“We don’t have that kind of facility now. We don’t have a facility to store the shipment in a cold area so we can inspect and effectively scrutinize it,” Dar said.
The DA chief explained that the problem about shipments arriving in the country revolves around undeclared items, especially meat, which are hidden along with other products to look like there’s nothing wrong with them.
The move will be initially given a budget of ₱2 billion for the establishment of five facilities, which will require a construction budget of ₱400 million each.
Dar said it is going to be a multi-commodity facility that allows a thorough inspection of farm products like vegetables, plants and other high-value crops.
In November, the Philippine government established that the illegal transportation of live pigs and pork products from areas struck by ASF was one of the reasons why it is hard to keep the deadly hog disease from reaching more backyard farms in Luzon.
It was in the same month when shipments from China were seized for illegally containing processed pork products.
Officials likewise suspected that ASF had reached Pampanga due to illegal transportation of hogs from Bulacan, which was also tested positive for the virus.
Earlier this month, DA also partnered with the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (US DTRA) for an expanded version of an existing program meant to improve the Philippine government’s veterinary diagnostic laboratories.
The move, according to DA, could help protect and keep the Philippines free from major animal diseases.
In a statement, DA said it plans to establish strong and functional animal disease diagnostic laboratories nationwide, a plan that came amid the unresolved ASF cases in the country.
This move was formalized in a Department Order (DO) signed and issued by Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
The project — called Enhancement of the Biosafety and Biosecurity Capabilities at the Department of Agriculture (DA) Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories (BSS project) — is being implemented by DA in collaboration with the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (US DTRA).