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The Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) have started implementing an electronic certificate exchange for plant and plant products imported from Australia.

With this development, DAWR will no longer issue paper phytosanitary certificates (PCs) starting August 6, BPI director George Culaste said in a memorandum dated July 30.

Instead, PCs will automatically be linked to the corresponding sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance (SPSIC), Plant Quarantine Clearance or Plant Quarantine Service Certificate issued by BPI. PCs may be printed by the importer or representative through the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) online system for submission to the Bureau of Customs or other purposes.

The electronic equivalent of the paper phytosanitary certificate, the electronic PC, or ePhyto certificate, guarantees that a plant or plant product for export is free from pests and diseases, and conforms to other phytosanitary requirements of the importing country.

Culaste, in an interview with PortCalls last year, said BPI would implement an electronic system automating the application and release of PCs in a bid to make the export of plant and plant products easier and more efficient.

Global initiative

BPI National Plant Quarantine Services Division assistant chief Gerald Glenn Panganiban earlier explained that ePhyto is a global initiative under the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), a multilateral treaty deposited with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and recognized by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which the Philippines is a member of.

Since 2011, the IPPC’s governing body, the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures, which oversees the implementation of the convention, has been encouraging electronic certification.

Panganiban said BPI, an attached agency of the DA, is pushing for automation to make the Philippines compliant with the IPPC and WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement.

Eliminating delays

Francis Lopez, president of InterCommerce Network Services, Inc. which provides the DA online system, said the PCs, once approved, are sent by DAWR before the cargo’s actual arrival and discharge at Philippine ports.

He said that “this will enable the Plant Quarantine Officers at the ports to verify compliance of the PhytoCert to PH/BPI import conditions, and if non-compliant, to inform the importer to request the exporter (in AU) to request for a replacement of the PhytoCert.”

“With the ePhyto from AU, it would eliminate fraudulent PhytoCerts from AU, reduce quarantine clearance processes and eliminate delays, demurrage charges and spoilage of perishable shipments of plant and plant products from Australia,” he added. – Roumina Pablo

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