Ban on pork, pork-based products from ASF-infected countries still in effect – DA

Marje Pelayo   •   May 27, 2019   •   7799

Deli meats made with pork at a butcher’s shop in France | (c) 2019 Thomson Reuters

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) reiterated that the ban on entry of pork and pork-based products into the Philippines remain in effect especially from countries affected by the highly contagious Asian Swine Fever (ASF).

The DA has been warning against the entry of pork and pork-based items from countries – Russia, Romania, South Africa, Ukraine, Zambia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, China – since last year because of the spread of ASF.

The list has grown in number with the addition of Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Mongolia, and Cambodia.

According to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, the highly-contagious swine disease can enter the country through contaminated meat or pork products.

On May 20, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) intercepted a ‘Maling’ brand luncheon meat from a returning overseas Filipino worker (OFW) at the Clark International Airport.

The OFW, who came from Hong Kong, approached the program ‘Raffy Tulfo in Action’ which facilitated the items’ release and return to the owner.

But Piñol questioned the program’s action for violation of the agency’s quarantine order and vowed to probe the incident.

The DA is also looking for the said OFW for investigation.

Radio broadcaster Raffy Tulfo, meanwhile, claims he did not know that such items were also part of the ban.

He argued that such brand of luncheon meat has been in shelves even of well-known grocery stores with manufacturing date as late as December 2018.

He added that the returned luncheon meat was not the canned items the OFW surrendered.

The OFW, Norma Agtara, wondered why she was barred this time when she even sent the same brand of luncheon meat sometime in April to her family but the said package was not held.

“Kaya ako ang pinag-initan kasi ang kapitbahay ko dito na naunang umuwi sa akin may dala ring ganun sabi nung asawa niya kahapon,” Agtara said.

(I was barred perhaps because my neighbor who arrived home earlier than I also brought home similar items, as relayed by her husband yesterday.)

Piñol stressed that the country’s 200-billion-peso hog industry will be compromised if the ASF enters the Philippines.

“Honestly, hindi lang ako (I am not just) concerned, I’m scared. Because the moment the disease enters the country, thousands of Filipino families will suffer,” he said.

ASF has so far infected millions of hogs in China and in all countries with recorded ASF infections and there is no vaccine yet discovered to cure it.

The import ban on pork and pork-based products from ASF-infected countries started last year followed by the DA-Bureau of Quarantine’s deployment of K9 units as part of its tightened border patrol to make sure no contaminated pork enters the country.

“Any other product shipped in after the ban should be recalled from the market,” the Agriculture Secretary said.

Violators of the ban will be sanctioned including a fine of P200,000. — (with details from Rey Pelayo)

Over 136k OFWs sent home, DOLE says

Robie de Guzman   •   August 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – More than 136,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have been transported to their respective home provinces, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that the latest batch of 2,667 OFWs who were cleared of coronavirus disease was sent home on August 11.

This brings the total to 136,509 OFWs provided with a package of DOLE assistance since it started transporting OFWs en masse in May after undergoing tests and quarantine, Bello said.

The labor chief added that the department, with the help of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and other government agencies, have been providing OFWs with assistance including accommodation, food, transportation and coronavirus testing upon their arrival in the country.

This is aside from a one-time P10,000 or $200 aid under its Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program to OFWs affected by the pandemic, both on-site and stranded in the country.

Bello recently welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval of an additional P5 billion fund for its assistance program which will benefit more OFWs.

Over P500,000 worth of smuggled rice seized in Cebu port

Robie de Guzman   •   August 12, 2020

More than half a million pesos worth of smuggled rice was intercepted at the Port of Cebu, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said Wednesday.

The BOC said the shipment containing 495 bags of Myanmar White Rice was seized on August 10.

“This latest apprehension is the result of the intelligence and investigative work of the Port’s Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) headed by District Commander SPAS Jerry M. Arizabal,” the bureau said in a statement.

The bags of rice were intercepted after the ESS received information that a shipment that arrived at the Port of Cebu from Kaohsiung, Taiwan on July 23 was loaded with imported rice.

The bureau’s investigation showed that the inward foreign manifest declared the shipment to contain personal effects. It was consigned to a certain Theresa Lawas of Barangay Pansoy, Municipality of Sogod, Cebu.

However, verification with Barangay Pansoy revealed that it had no resident named Theresa Lawas.

With this information, Acting District Collector Atty. Charlito Martin Mendoza issued a Pre-Lodgement Control Order against the shipment on 29 July 2020.

“A 100% physical examination was subsequently conducted by Customs Examiner Odilon Bustamante in the presence of representatives from the ESS, X-ray Inspection Project (XIP), Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI)-Cebu Chapter,” the BOC said.

The physical examination yielded 495 bags of Myanmar White Rice, and no personal effects as stated in the manifest, it added.

The bags of rice were also not covered by any Sanitary and Phytosanitary Clearance from the Bureau of Plant Industry.

Consequently, a Warrant of Seizure and Detention against the shipment for violation of Section 1113(f) and (l) par. 5of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

The BOC reminded importers to properly declare their goods, and identify themselves in shipping documents. It also called on the public to report to the Bureau any information about illegal shipments that are attempted to be brought into the country.

BOC seizes P23.5M worth of ecstacy concealed in coffee, kids’ toys

Robie de Guzman   •   August 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 13,824 tablets of party drug Ecstacy, with an estimated street value of P23,500,800, were seized in Pasay City, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said.

In a statement, the BOC said its personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) intercepted the tablets at the Central Mail Exchange Center warehouse.

The tablets were found in seven parcels addressed to different consignees, it added.

The shipments, which reportedly originated from the Netherlands and Belgium, were declared as coffee and kids’ toys.

The bureau said the parcels were subjected to inspection after its personnel found the weight of the packages “suspicious.” The examination was also conducted following a discovery in July of smuggled illegal drugs through “coffee beans” from abroad.

Upon physical examination, Custom examiners found the tablets in different colors and concealed in toys and wrappers of coffee.

Field tests conducted by Customs Anti-Illegal Drug Task Force and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency confirmed that the seized tablets were methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as Ecstacy.

The BOC said it already turned over to PDEA the seized illegal drugs for further profiling and case build-up against the importers and other individuals involved in the possible prosecution for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 in relation to Section 1401 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

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