DA, BOC strengthen alliance vs smuggling

Published October 10, 2021, 2:20 PM

by Waylon Galvez

The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) have forged an agreement to implement a new set of measures against the entry of smuggled agricultural commodities into the country.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar and BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero signed the agreement Friday, Oct. 8 in hopes to strengthen the “second border” for inspections and create a technical working group (TWG) to review the 15-year-old guidelines and procedures on handling imported food items.

“Our goal is to curb the entry of smuggled agri-fishery products, while ensuring consumer safety in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 10611 or the ‘Food Safety Act of 2013’ and other applicable laws,” Dar said.

The two agencies will implement an intensified and stricter second border inspection and control procedures to ensure that all imported agricultural commodities will be monitored for food safety.

The inspection will also include investigation of ‘misdeclared’ goods.

The renewed measures of the DA-BOC anti-smuggling efforts, according to Dar, include an “open-close” examination at the “first border” or port of entry of all fresh and frozen agri-fishery cargoes.

However, the goods will now be subjected to a stricter 100-percent inspection once they arrive at the designated warehouses or “second border.”

“This measure will only be temporary pending the completion of the first border facilities that will be constructed by the DA at major ports, starting in Subic, called as Commodity Examination Facility for Agriculture (CEFA),” Dar said.

Further, the DA and BOC agreed to create a technical working group (TWG) to review and strengthen guidelines and protocols as stated under Department Memorandum Order No. 4, Series of 2007.

The TWG, on the other hand, will help establish sanitary and phytosanitary measures, as well as food safety standards, and other regulatory measures in conducting first/second border inspection and control procedures.

The TWG is chaired by agriculture assistant secretary for regulations Liza Battad, and co-chaired by DA assistant secretary for economic intelligence Federico Laciste, BOC deputy commissioner intelligence group Raniel Ramiro and assistant commissioner for post-clearance audit group Vincent Phillip Maronilla.

The members of the TWG include respective heads of DA regulatory agencies – like the bureaus of plant industry (BPI), animal industry (BAI), and fisheries and aquatic resources (BFAR), and National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) – and concerned BOC officers.

The BOC has also committed to provide the concerned DA attached agency with the inward foreign manifest and bill of lading of all agri-fishery shipments to enable them to identify shipments requiring food safety inspection.

“This will also allow us to cross-check our records and identify the shipper and recipient of the cargoes containing agri-fishery products,” Dar said.

“We can verify with the BOC, in real-time, the correctness of all the documents from the importers, including the details of all the food items and the owners of the cargoes,” he added.