The Department of Agriculture is set to establish in six ports this year the country’s first border inspection (FBI) facilities or agricultural commodity examination areas
The six ports are the Manila International Container Terminal, Manila South Harbor, and Cebu, Batangas, Subic, and Davao ports
The FBI facilities will be used to inspect imported animals, plants, meat, and other farm and fishery products
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is set to establish in six ports this year the Philippines’ first border inspection (FBI) facilities, or agricultural commodity examination areas (ACEA).
The ACEAs, the first to be established in the Philippines, will be set up at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), Manila South Harbor, Cebu, Batangas, Subic, and Davao, DA said in a statement.
DA-attached agency Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) will establish the FBI facilities in the country’s major ports for the inspection of imported animals, plants, meat, and other farm and fishery products, DA said last year.
The initial FBI facility will be put up at MICT, and the others will be located at Manila South Harbor, Subic Freeport Zone, Batangas port, Cebu International Port, and Davao port.
BAI director Ronnie Domingo said coordination meetings with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), concerned officials of MICT and other five major ports were started in February 2020 to identify suitable, available and strategic locations.
Domingo said ACEAs are already present in all developed countries as part of their strengthened food safety, quarantine, and inspection regulations.
Each FBI facility—to be manned by at least 39 technical personnel—will house an ACEA and crematorium.
The ACEA, with its controlled temperature environment, will enable quarantine officers to thoroughly inspect 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 that have quarantine violations and that cannot be returned to their origin.
A budget of P2 billion has been allocated for the establishment of the five ACEAs. Last year, the Department of Budget Management allotted P500 million for the ACEA at MICT.
DA secretary William Dar earlier said such facilities will strengthen the existing FBI procedures in the country, as he emphasized the need to prevent the entry of trans-boundary animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Avian Influenza, and African Swine Fever (ASF).
The FBI facilities will also reinforce the implementation of food safety and sanitary and phytosanitary measures for plants, fish and fishery products, according to DA.
Under Republic Act (RA) No. 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013, all food, meat, and agri shipments must first pass through ACEA before going to the Bureau of Customs, Dar 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 for 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).”
For their part, “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,” the section further declares.
DA and DOH will develop the regulations on cargo/shipment inspections and clearance procedures for imported products prior to BOC assessment. DA and BOC will then forge an agreement to implement the policy as called for under the Food Safety Act of 2013.
DA early in 2020 said it was looking at putting up a designated cold examination area at MICT to limit unloading of agricultural imports to only five ports to enable a 100% examination of such goods.
Currently, BOC opens a container only to make a quick check for spoilage or contamination. Only when delivered to the National Meat Inspection Service are the commodities subjected to a more thorough examination.