The construction of the first first-border inspection facility in the Philippines, which should prevent the entry of animal diseases in the country, is yet to start more than a year since the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced such a plan.
Outgoing Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Director Ronnie Domingo said in a text exchange that the construction of the First Border Inspection Facility or Agricultural Commodity Examination Area (ACEA) in Manila Port has not yet started.
He also revealed that until now, the DA is still waiting for the approval of the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) on the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) regarding the establishment of ACEA in South Harbor of Manila International Container Terminal (MICT).
The deal will also pave the way for the establishment of ACEA in the ports of Batangas and Davao.
This, while the DA is still coordinating with Cebu Port Authority (CPA) for the finalization of MOA with USUFRUCT on the establishment of ACEA at Cebu International Port, Domingo further said.
Under the Republic Act (RA) 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013, which was enacted eight years ago, all imported foods shall undergo cargo inspection and clearance procedures by the DA and the Department of Health (DOH) at the first port of entry to determine compliance with national regulations.
This, according to agricultural lobby group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), should help prevent the entry of animal diseases like African Swine Fever (ASF) and avian influenza or bird flu in the country.
However, some industry sources said the establishment of ACEA is not feasible logistics-wise, and may only incur delays in the distribution of meat products across the country.
The first ACEA is located in MICT, at South Harbor, Port of Manila, while four of these will be established at the Cebu International Port as well as ports of Batangas, Subic, and Davao.
Last year, the ACEA project has been allocated a budget of P521.57 million.
Domingo said that right now, DA is still “conducting the geodetic survey and soil analysis in the identified sites of the first border inspection facility or ACEA starting off with South Harbor-Port of Manila”.
The geodetic survey and soil analysis are prerequisites for the development of detailed architectural and engineering designs of the ACEA, Domingo noted.
In October last year, SINAG threatened to file a case against the DA for failing to implement the government’s ‘quarantine first policy’.
“Last December , the Office of the President allocated P2 billion for the construction of our first border inspection facilities. Up to this very day, however, not a single quarantine facility has been established, contrary to what was clearly stated under RA 10611,” SINAG Chairman Rosendo So said.
Because of the persistence of ASF, the country is now facing a shortfall in the supply of pork, pushing prices of this commodity higher.
ASF, per se, already resulted in the death and culling of more than 500,000 hogs nationwide. But its persistence also resulted in more hog raisers shifting into other businesses like poultry and egg production, which is making things worse supply-wise.
As of January 28, the prevailing price of pork kasim stood at P350 per kilogram (/kg), while pork liempo costs P400/kg, based on the price monitoring report of the DA.
The government is now planning to impose a reduction in tariff for pork imports in the next months to boost the supply of the commodity.