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

Marje Pelayo   •   May 27, 2019   •   7637

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)

TikTok says it will exit Hong Kong market within days

UNTV News   •   July 7, 2020

TikTok said it will exit the Hong Kong market within days, a spokesman told Reuters late on Monday (July 6), as other technology companies including Facebook Inc have suspended processing government requests for user data in the region.

The short form video app owned by China-based ByteDance has made the decision to exit the region following China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city.

Late on Monday, the U.S. secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.

U.S. lawmakers have raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, saying they were worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”

The company, now run by former Walt Disney Co executive Kevin Mayer, has said in the past that the app’s user data is not stored in China. (Reuters)

(Production: Irene Wang, Thomas Suen)

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Hong Kong residents worry about online freedom of expression amid new law

UNTV News   •   July 7, 2020

Hong Kong residents said on Tuesday (July 7) that they believe fear is spreading over freedom of expression online and expressed worries that some social media platforms may simply become unavailable amid a new sweeping national security law in the semi-autonomous city.

It comes as Facebook Inc, Google Inc and Twitter Inc said that they had suspended processing of government requests for user data in Hong Kong on Monday (July 6).

China’s parliament passed the national security legislation last week, setting the stage for the most radical changes to the former British colony’s way of life since it returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago.

Despite the tech companies’ announcement, resident Yan Pat-to, 45, said he believes authorities will find other ways to access users’ data.

“I think the worry or the fear is already spread over Hong Kong about the cyber expression of the freedoms here,” he said.

Tech companies have long operated freely in Hong Kong, a regional financial hub where internet access has been unaffected by the firewall imposed in mainland China, which blocks Google, Twitter and Facebook.

In addition to the announcements by the U.S tech giants, TikTok, the short-form video app owned by China-based ByteDance, said it would pull out of the Hong Kong market within days. (Reuters)

(Production: Yoyo Chow)

Solon pushes for military honors for OFWs who died of COVID-19 abroad

Marje Pelayo   •   July 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker is pushing for the granting of military honors to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who succumbed to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) abroad as they can be considered as ‘modern-day heroes.’

Senior Citizen Party-list Rep. Francisco Datol Jr. in House Resolution No. 1027 said the sacrifices of OFWs and their significant contribution to the country’s economy are enough to merit them such military honors. 

Based on the latest count of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), a total of 577 OFWs have already died of COVID-19 from the overall number of 8,679 confirmed cases across the globe.

Datol said OFWs are qualified under The Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines for their unconditional sacrifices as overseas workers.

The lawmaker also proposed that the government shoulder the complete burial expenses of every OFW who died of COVID-19 abroad as part of the full military honors. 

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