Hog growers raise hopes on deal with Customs
DAGUPAN CITY—Leaders of the country’s hog industry have asked Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon to make good on his promise to help stop meat smuggling by providing the Department of Agriculture (DA) documents that would verify contents and origin of container vans entering Philippine ports.
Rosendo So, director of the Swine Development Council, said Biazon had promised to give them copies of the inward foreign manifest (IFM) during their meetings on June 15 and 26.
In a statement, So was also quoted as saying his group was hopeful that mechanisms agreed upon by his group and Customs officials in a recent meeting would finally curb smuggling.
IFM is an international manifest that lists the contents and values of all cargoes being brought into the country, as well as the countries of origin.
“It was agreed during the last meeting that BOC (Bureau of Customs) would provide DA with IFM in a week’s time, but that the sensitive parts of the IFM would be removed. It is already 10 days since the last meeting but when we checked with the DA’s quarantine office, there are no IFMs sent to them yet,” said So, also chair of the party-list group Abono.
“These documents are crucial in determining shipments of smuggled meat and other food items. DA needs these IFMs to check if the cargo subject of inspection follows the veterinary quarantine certificate (VQC) issued by DA,” he said.
So said the IFM contains the country of origin of imports and is crucial in identifying smuggled shipments.
It was DA that asked the Department of Finance (DOF) for copies of IFM in April.
Backyard hog and poultry growers suspended the sale of pork and chicken for several days in May to demand a stop to meat smuggling that, they said, has been killing their industry.
So said importers declare prime meat cuts as offal (innards) because offal is charged a lower tariff of only 5 percent compared to 40 percent for prime cuts.
In a separate statement, So said agriculture industry players support the reforms that DA and DOF have agreed to implement at the BOC.
Among these, he said, are the conduct of full inspection of meat importation, including quarantine prior to the actual collection of duties and taxes.
“We fully support the efforts of the agriculture and the finance departments in coming up with measures to stop the unabated smuggling of meat into the country, which continues to threaten the existence of our hog and poultry industries and allied agricultural sectors, as well as continue to endanger the health of our consuming public,” he said.
The statement cited a letter by Finance Undersecretary John Phillip Sevilla to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, affirming the issues agreed upon by DA, DOF and hog industry leaders on meat smuggling.
Among these were the inspection of all meat and meat imports covered by 5 to 10 percent tariff, subjecting all meat importers to accreditation, the requirements of which would include the importers’ company profile and capacity, and asking BOC to adjust the reference prices of pork and chicken to reflect realistic market prices. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon