What’s the government’s plan vs bird flu? Tolentino wants to know
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis Tolentino has sought a Senate inquiry into the government’s plan to prevent and control bird flu outbreaks in the country.
He filed Senate Resolution No. 580 on Tuesday, May 2, calling for the probe. He then disclosed receiving reports that imported poultry products, which were not checked for hygiene standards, are being sold at various wet markets in Metro Manila.
“It is high time for the Senate to ensure that risk-based planning, strict prevention protocol, and proactive legislative action are in place to minimize public health risk and fundamentally, to accord our local poultry sector with the support and opportunity as active partners in development and nation building,” Tolentino said in a press release on Thursday.
The senator cited in his resolution the data from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) indicating that the avian influenza virus has affected nine regions in the country as of February 9. Tolentino also mentioned a report submitted by BAI to the National Banner Program Committee on Poultry and Livestock (NBPC on PL) that more than 300,000 poultry had died since the bird flu broke in 2022.
He further pointed out that Rizal province only regained its bird flu-free status on January 4, almost half a year after it recorded confirmed cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HAI) Subtype H5N1 in June and July 2022.
Uncleared imported poultry sold in Metro Manila?
Tolentino likewise claimed in the resolution that he received “reliable reports” that several markets in Pasig City, Mandaluyong City, Makati City, Las Piñas City, Quezon City, the City of Manila, and San Juan City hold inventories of imported unlabeled chicken.
The imported chicken, he said, have no stickers from the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and do not bear details of production or distribution.
Tolentino did not name the agency or entity that conducted the inventory or inspection of the poultry but his resolution referred to such reports as “market research.”
“The sale of the said imported poultry meat brazenly violates the provisions of the law under Republic Act No. 7394, or the ‘Consumer Act of the Philippines’… it fails to qualify with the Philippine National Standards on the Code of Hygienic Practice for the Sale of Fresh Agriculture and Fishery Products in Markets and Authorized Outlets,” he asserted.
The senator emphasized in a statement that existing policies require the proper labelling of all imported fresh meat, and that a meat inspection certificate should also be issued for such product. As for imported frozen meat, Tolentino said a Certificate of Meat Inspection is required.
The Philippines imported a four-year high 77% of its 46,176.36 metric tons dressed chicken inventory as of January 2023.