450 tons of Brazil meat raises alert
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Customs officials are on a tight watch for 75 containers loaded with up to 450 tons of imported frozen meat supposedly for transshipment following a request made by an agriculture department office for closer monitoring of the cargoes amid suspicion that these could find their way into the local market.
While the Customs bureau has been alerted about the shipment, however, an agricultural group monitoring the smuggling of meat into the country urged Customs officials to quickly seize the cargoes and destroy these.
Rosendo So, head of the agriculture group Samahan ng Industriya sa Agrikultura (Sinag), said the entry of the frozen meat underscores the need for President Aquino to sign into law a bill that would define smuggling of agricultural products as an act of economic sabotage.
Lawyer Ernelito Aquino, Subic Customs district collector, said the shipment was declared as foreign transshipment cargo from Brazil and bound for Vietnam via the Port of Subic.
“[But] we received information from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) that the containers would be stripped down and the cargo would be transferred to a fishing boat,” Aquino said on Tuesday. The BAI is an office under the Department of Agriculture.
“That’s (stripping a container) illegal so we’re closely monitoring the shipments,” Aquino added.
The 40-foot containers, which were loaded with 408,000 kilograms of frozen cattle, swine meats and offal, were consigned to Goldlink International Subic Inc., Aquino said.
The company is a registered free port importer, he said.
The shipments are inside the Subic Bay International Terminal (SBIT) here.
Because the cargoes are designated foreign transshipment items, “the bullet seal [of each container] must remain intact while [the cargoes are] waiting to be transferred to another ship that will carry the containers to their primary destination,” he said.
According to Aquino, the BAI had requested the BOC to hold the containers “indefinitely” due to reports that needed to be validated.
“These reports came amid the complaints of hog raisers on the unabated smuggling of imported meat. We’re trying not to worsen the problem,” Aquino said.
Roberto Garcia, chair of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), said, “Being a free port, we allow foreign transshipment. However, [because of the raw information from BAI], the BOC intervened.”
“Had the containers been immediately transferred to another ship when these arrived in Subic free port, then there would have been no problem,” said Garcia.
“But the consignee [allegedly] wanted to strip the containers and that’s not allowed,” he said.
Stripping a container means it would be opened and transferred to a vessel other than the ship that carried it to Subic.
Recently, an alliance of pork producers asked the President to stop the smuggling of meat or the group would declare a pork holiday and stop selling pork. Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon; Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; and Rafael Antonio, Inquirer Research
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.