Gov’t probes use of free ports in meat smuggling
BAGUIO CITY—Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said imported meat could have entered the Philippine market illegally using free ports, a possibility which his department is studying following the discovery of allegedly undocumented rice shipment from India in a warehouse at Subic Bay Freeport.
“During a recent exchange of information among agency directors, one of them observed that there may have been opportunities for smugglers to use the free ports to bring in undeclared meat products for sale in our markets,” Alcala told reporters in Filipino here on Monday.
The official attended the regional Gawad Saka awarding ceremony, which honors farmers and fishermen who excelled in their fields of expertise or enterprises.
Alcala said the crackdown on smuggling by the Bureau of Customs gave the Department of Agriculture better information as to how unlicensed imported meat had penetrated the domestic market.
“Didn’t we used to complain, ‘what was Customs doing?’ Well now they are moving. They deserve a pat on the back,” he said.
In a position paper sent to the Senate, the country’s hog raisers said the government recorded the entry of only 54,174,139 kilograms of imported pork in 2011, out of the total 164,122,423 kg exported to the Philippines by other countries.
The paper, which was submitted by Swine Development Council (SDC) and the party-list group Abono, cited data supplied by the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database.
The unrecorded meat imports were valued at P16.49 billion, if a kilogram of smuggled pork is sold for P150, it said.
In a statement, Rosendo So, SDC director, said importers could have misdeclared the products in order to pay lower tariffs.
“The imported meat enters the Philippines either as meat of swine or as swine liver and edible offal (innards and low-grade meat parts). Meat of swine is levied a tariff of 40 percent while swine liver and edible offal is slapped a tariff of 5 percent,” the paper said.
“The tariff differential between meat of swine and swine liver and edible offal offers a window of abuse for importers where they declare meat of swine as swine liver … to avoid paying the higher tariff,” it said.
“In 2009, backyard farms contributed 71 percent of the total swine inventory, while the commercial farms contributed 29 percent. But in January 2012, the share of swine inventory from backyard farms went down to 67 percent while the commercial farms had a 33 percent share,” the paper said. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon