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

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, May 27th, 2019

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)

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P1.2-M worth of smuggled cigarettes seized in Port of Zamboanga

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2019

Courtesy: Bureau of Customs

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — A total of 2,125 reams of smuggled cigarettes amounting to P1.2 million were confiscated at the port of Zamboanga on Wednesday (July 10).

According to the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the illegal shipments were uncovered on board three passenger vessels: MV Mama Mia, MV Mary Joy 1 and MV Asian Stars, all from Jolo, Sulu.

Members of the BOC Enforcement and Security Service (BOC-ESS) and the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) launched the operation with assistance from the Naval Intelligence and Security Group – Western Mindanao and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

The latest seizure caused concern for the BOC noting the prevalence of cigarette smuggling in the area, according to Zamboanga District Collector Segundo Sigmundfreud Barte.

The BOC cited that the agency already hauled P60 million worth of smuggled cigarettes just between April and June this year.

Nevertheless, Barte stressed that the Bureau will continue its fervent effort to fight illicit cigarette trade in cooperation with concerned government agencies. The seized cigarettes were already turned over to the BOC for immediate destruction

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Murad approves of Piñol as Duterte’s ‘point man’ in BARMM

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2019

Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed on Thursday (July 11) that Chief Minister Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has approved the transfer of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol to head the Mindanao Development Authority (MINDA).

The agreement transpired during Murad’s meeting with the President on Wednesday (July 10).

The President vouched for Piñol as he said he needs someone to be his ‘point man’ in the region.

“(We are trying to) fine tune. The truth of the matter is I really transferred Piñol to assist them. Hindi naman to husbandry,” the President said.

“Wala akong point man doon na tagaroon, doon pinanganak, doon lumaki, farmer, became governor (I don’t have a point man there who was born and raised there, someone who’s a farmer and has served as governor),” he added.

“I’m sure he can help the BARMM and the government to fast track. I am most interested na makita na ng Moro people ang hinihingi nila (for the Moro people to see what they asked for),” Duterte explained, adding that aside from Murad, the other BARMM ministers also said ‘yes’ to the proposal. – with reports from Rosalie Coz

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Duterte orders freezing of several Customs officials, employees

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, July 11th, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a situation briefing with members of his Cabinet and local government officials to discuss disaster response measures in the aftermath of Tropical Depression (TD) ‘Usman’. at the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC) in Pili, Camarines Sur on January 4, 2019 ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the freezing of several high-ranking officials and employees of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) over corruption allegations.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said these officials are facing administrative and criminal charges for unlawful activities. Their names, he said would be disclosed “at the appropriate time.”

“The President’s latest action underscores this Administration’s zero tolerance on corruption among erring officials,” Panelo said in a statement released on Wednesday night (July 10).

“We continue to dismantle corruption in the bureaucracy and rid it of corrupt officials and employees… The anti-corruption campaign is continuing as it is relentless. No one will be spared,” he added.

Duterte’s order was issued days after he warned of firing several Customs officials who are accused of corruption. The president also bared he was mulling over another revamp in the BOC.

READ: Duterte mulls another Customs revamp

He also mentioned anew his earlier proposal of bringing the military into the BOC to address corruption allegations in the agency.

It can be recalled that in October 2018, the president said he is considering asking military men to take over the BOC due to the rampant corruption and drug smuggling activities.

Although there are reports that corruption and bribery still continue to thrive in the BOC, Malacañang said on Tuesday that Customs chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero still enjoys the trust and confidence of the president. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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