First-border inspection facility for meat, agri products soon to rise

Site of the FBI facility at MICP | Photo from DA
Site of the first-border inspection facility at MICP | Photo from DA

The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) will establish first-border inspection (FBI) facilities in the country’s major ports, starting with the Manila International Container Port (MICP), for inspection of imported animals, plants, meat, and other farm and fishery products.

The FBI facility will also be established at the Manila South Harbor, Subic Freeport Zone, Port of Batangas, Cebu International Port and Port of Davao.

BAI director Ronnie Domingo said coordination meetings with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), concerned officials of MICP and the other five major ports began in February this year to identify suitable locations.

Each facility—to be manned by at least 39 technical personnel— will house an Agriculture Commodity Examination Area (ACEA) and crematorium.

The Department of Budget Management has allocated P500 million for the MICP ACEA and P2 billion for the other five ACEAs.

The proposed MICP ACEA site is at container freight storage 3.

ACEAs are present in all developed countries as part of their strengthened food safety and quarantine, inspection regulations, according to Domingo.

The ACEA, with its controlled temperature environment, will allow quarantine officers to thoroughly inspect contents of an identified high-risk containerized agricultural shipment.

Each ACEA will feature a laboratory to enable immediate testing of samples from commodities suspected to carry animal, fish or plant pests or diseases and other hazardous contents.

The crematorium will ensure safe disposal of confirmed agricultural commodities with quarantine violations, if these cannot be returned to origin.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the establishment of such facilities will strengthen existing FBI procedures in the country, emphasizing the need to prevent the entry of trans-boundary animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease, Avian Influenza, and African Swine Fever.

The FBI facilities will also reinforce the implementation of food safety and sanitary and phytosanitary measures for plants, fish and fishery products, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA), BAI’s mother agency.

“The ACEAs will enable us to perform 100% inspection of farm commodities especially those on high risk or ‘Alert Order’ status. This will help us reduce or prevent smuggling of agricultural products, and prevent the entry of major animal, plant and fish diseases that will endanger the country’s agricultural industry,” Dar said.

“Under the Food Safety Act of 2013 or RA [Republic Act] 10611, all food, meat, and agri shipments must first go through ACEA, before the BOC [Bureau of Customs],” the DA chief noted.

In particular, Section 12 (b) of RA 10611 states that: “imported foods shall undergo cargo inspection and clearance procedures by the DA and the DOH [Department of Health] at the first port of entry to determine compliance with national regulations. This inspection by the DA and the DOH shall always take place prior to assessment for tariff and other charges by the Bureau of Customs (BOC). The BOC and the Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL) shall provide the DA and the DOH documents such as the Inward Foreign Manifest of Arriving Vessels to enable the DA and the DOH to identify shipments requiring food safety inspection. Shipments not complying with national regulations shall be disposed according to policies established by the DA and the DOH.”

DA and DOH will develop regulations on cargo/shipment inspections and clearance procedures for imported products prior to the assessment of BOC. DA and BOC will then forge an agreement to implement the policy as called for under the Food Safety Act of 2013.

DA early this year said it is looking at putting up of a designated cold examination area at MICT as part of a plan to limit unloading of agricultural imports to only five ports to enable a 100% examination of such goods by the government.

READ: First cold exam area for meat, agri imports eyed at MICP

At present when BOC opens a container, it is only to make a quick check of the contents for spoilage or contamination. Only when the commodities are delivered to the National Meat Inspection Service is a more thorough examination conducted.