Construction of border quarantine facility for agri products delayed

Published October 8, 2021, 5:41 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Despite the rising smuggling activities in the country involving agricultural commodities, Agriculture Secretary William Dar admitted that the construction of what will be the country’s first ever first-border quarantine facility for farm products has faced further delays.

In a briefing, Dar said that the Department of Agriculture (DA) encountered problems with Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) regarding the construction of the P500-million Agricultural Commodity Examination Area (ACEA), which will now be referred to as Commodity Examination Facility for Agriculture (CEFA).

This is more than two years since Dar first revealed the government’s plan to build ACEA or CEFA, which will serve as a first border inspection facility and should prevent the entry of smuggled agricultural products in the country or those contaminated with animal and plant diseases.

The construction of this facility will serve as DA’s compliance with the ‘Quarantine First Policy’ of the Republic Act (RA) 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013. Under this law, 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.

Dar’s statement regarding ACEA came as he asked Metro Manila consumers to be vigilant about potential smuggled carrots and vegetables now being distributed in the markets.

He said while the government is now investigating the issue, “the best thing that we can do is not to buy because we don’t know what these vegetables contain in terms of pesticide residue”.

The League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas have recently complained that alleged smuggled carrots are delivered to the Carbon Market in Cebu City every week and are being sold at P50 per kilogram (/kg) in various markets. The contraband carrots are believed to be coming from China.

Last August, local farmers and traders have also called the attention of the DA on alleged hot cabbages being distributed in Divisoria market in Metro Manila at P70/kg which is much lower than the prices of Benguet cabbage pegged at P115 to P125/kg.

As a response, Agriculture Spokesperson Noel Reyes said that an inter-agency task force will be formed to investigate the suspected smuggled carrots spotted in Divisoria, Manila in the past few days.

The task force will be composed of DA, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Bureau of Customs (BOC), and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). Also on Tuesday, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) urged the House of Representatives to probe the worsening smuggling of temperate or salad vegetables in the country.

It further said that the DA and the BOC must be held accountable for the smuggling of vegetables because it is within their mandate to prevent the smuggling of agri products.

Going back to CEFA, Dar said the country’s first ever first-border quarantine facility for agricultural products will now be built in Subic, instead of Manila port.