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Farmers’ group files complaint vs agri chief 

FARMERS’ group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) filed a complaint against Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar for his alleged failure to implement the country’s food safety regulations. The group led by its chairman, Rosendo O. So, filed the case at the Office of the Ombudsman on April 23 citing the “continuing failure” of Mr. Dar to enforce food safety standards and regulations under Republic Act (RA) No. 10611 or the Food Safety Act. “It had deleterious socio-economic effects: rampant misdeclaration of agricultural commodities; cases of African Swine Fever (ASF), Avian Flu, and foot-and-mouth disease, and other viral illnesses; and soaring food costs,” Mr. So said in the complaint. He cited the “Quarantine First Policy” under RA 10611 that requires imported food to undergo cargo inspection and clearance procedures by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Health (DoH) at the first port of entry. The policy also provides that the DA and DoH inspection should always be conducted before assessment for tariff and other charges by the Bureau of Customs (BoC). The DA, instead, has been examining imported food products after these have been transferred from the first port of entry, Mr. So said.

MORE PORK IMPORTS
“At the first port of entry, quarantine officers merely open shipping containers for a quick look and immediately close them to avoid spoilage or contamination. The containers are then brought to and examined at accredited warehouses,” he said. SINAG, he added, has repeatedly asked the DA and Mr. Dar to fully implement the first border inspection as mandated under the law. “Instead of heeding the request of the local agriculture sector, Mr. Dar moved to increase the minimum access volume (MAV) allocation for pork and reduce pork tariffs,” Mr. So said. Currently, the DA is using a two-stage inspection process that checks the imports at the first port of entry, and undergoes another inspection once they arrive at the storage facilities. It is implementing the said inspection process while awaiting the completion of the country’s first meat inspection facility or agricultural commodity examination area (ACEA) at the Port of Manila. The DA said in previous statements that the establishment of the first ACEA facility is expected to be finished by the end of the year. Similar facilities will also be constructed in Batangas, Subic, Cebu, and Davao. BusinessWorld sought the comment of Mr. Dar regarding SINAG’s case, but he declined to give any response. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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