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PACC clears Agriculture Secretary Piñol from corruption allegations

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol

MANILA, Philippines – The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) announced on Wednesday (June 12) that it has cleared Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol from allegations of corruption in relation to the rice importation program of the National Food Authority (NFA).

In its Resolution 14 dated June 10, the Anti-Corruption Commission said it has “found no evidence pointing to unexplained wealth” after seven months of “thorough lifestyle check” on the Agriculture Secretary.

During the investigation that started in December 2018, Piñol agreed to open all his bank accounts and financial documents to scrutiny.

On his social media account, Piñol said he was relieved and overjoyed by the PACC’s findings.

“Today, I feel relieved. In fact, I am overjoyed and overwhelmed by the heartwarming statement issued by the PACC citing my action as proof that President Duterte has people around him who believe in his advocacy for upright and transparent governance,” he said Wednesday.

“I cannot claim to be a perfect government worker. I could and may have made wrong decisions. People could even accuse me of incompetence but nobody could question my dedication to my job and my work ethics,” he added in his statement.

The investigation was conducted by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Land Registration Authority (LRA), the Philippine National Police (PNP), Civil Security Group (CSG), and Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO).

The PACC, meanwhile, on its statement said that other officials of the Duterte administration are also undergoing probe by the agency after Secretary Piñol volunteered to undergo a full lifestyle check.

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Canned pork seized from OFW positive for African Swine Fever virus

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Confiscated canned pork products that tested positive for African Swine Fever (ASF) virus | Courtesy : Secretary Manny Piñol’s Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol confirmed on Friday (June 12) that the canned pork products confiscated last March 25 at the Clark International Airport have tested positive for African Swine Fever (ASF) virus.

Piñol said that the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) reported the detection of the ASF virus from the confiscated canned pork products brought in by a returning overseas Filipino worker (OFW) from Hong Kong.

The Agriculture Chief cited a report by Dr. Rachel Azul of BAI’s Virulogy Section saying “the viral DNA was isolated in pork luncheon meat and was tested using the ASF Taqman PCR Asssay at the ADDRL,” a procedure validated by laboratories in the United Kingdom and is widely used in countries in Asia for detection of ASF virus.

Azul clarified, however, that the detection of the ASF virus in the confiscated canned pork does not change the Philippine’s status as an “African Swine Fever-free” nation.

“So far, no African swine fever infections have been reported in pigs in the country,” she said as posted by Secretary Piñol.

“The seizure is a warning for the industry and an acknowledgment of the catastrophic threat on our doorsteps. If introduced, ASF would have a significant impact on pig health and production and contribute to enormous economic losses,” she added.

In a separate post, Secretary Piñol defended the Bureau of Quarantine for imposing strict screening procedures at airports as preventive measure against the the entry of the deadly pig virus.

“Kung nakalusot po ito at naipakain sa mga alagang baboy ang tira-tira, maaring kumalat ang sakit sa ating mga babuyan at magiging sanhi ng pagkasira ng ating hog industry,” he said.

(If leftovers of these products were fed to our livestock, the virus could have spread and harm our hog industry.)

“Doon po sa mga nagsasabing nag-o-over react lang kami at nagrereklamo sa mga mahigpit na quarantine protocols, ito po ang patunay na meron talaga tayong kinakaharap na panganib,” he added.

(To those who are accusing us of over reacting and were complaining against strict quarantine protocols, this is the proof that there is really danger ahead of us.)

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

Piñol asked all returning Filipinos to yield to quarantine officers at the airport.

“Huwag na po tayong maging pilosopo at matigas ang ulo. Sumunod po tayo sa mga quarantine officers sa mga airport,” he appealed.

(Let us not argue and don’t be hard-headed. Let us just follow the quarantine officers at the airport.)

“Bawal na po magpasok ng mga delata at processed pork products sa bansa. Huhulihin po kayo at pagmumultahin,” he concluded.

(It is prohibited to bring canned and processed pork products into the country. You will be arrested and fined.)

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Increase in production, oversupply of mangoes due to El Niño – DA

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, June 10th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Mango growers across the country were compelled to bring and sell their yield in Metro Manila trading centers.

According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), there is currently an oversupply of two million kilograms of mangoes in the country because the El Niño phenomenon was able to help fruit farmers improve their harvest.

“Nakapahinga ang lupa for some time dahil sa init. And then kapag biglang ulan, bigla na lang tataas ang production ng mga fruit (bearing) trees,” explained Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

Consumers may be able to buy fresh and good quality mangoes at P40 to P50 a kilogram at the DA central office along Elliptical Road in Quezon City as well as in Bureau of Plant Industry offices in Malate, Manila; in Muntinlupa and Parañaque City Halls; and in Waltermart branches in North EDSA and Makati City.

Fruit vendors at Kamuning Market in Quezon City noted a huge drop in the price of mangoes.

In April, they said a kilogram would cost P120 but the price dropped to P85 due to oversupply.

Nevertheless, mango growers said they were able to still earn a reasonable amount, especially in April.

They are worried, however, that at this time they still have a lot and they have no more spaces to store them in.

“Okay naman po kaso ang mga canary nagsipunuan na kaya walang mapagbentahan yung farmers doon sa amin,” lamented mango grower Enrico Tolentino from La Union.

(We’re okay however, our canaries are already full and our farmers have no other place to sell them.)

An image went viral on social media were plastic bags of mangoes were hanged on house fences in Salcedo, Ilocos Sur for anybody to take free of charge.

COURTESY: Emmylou Arruejo Jomero

According to the DA, an oversupply of mangoes is normal every three to four years whenever the temperature is high.

Exportation of mangoes to other countries like Japan and Dubai helps to address oversupply.

Agriculture Secretary Piñol took pride in the taste and quality of Guimaras mangoes which he showcased in his recent visit to Russia. (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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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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