Import ban on fresh produce from ASF-hit countries stays

AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol on Wednesday reiterated that the import ban on fresh fruits, meat and its by-products, as well as plants from countries hit by African Swine Flu (ASF) is being strictly enforced by authorities.

“Over the last few weeks, following the strict implementation of Quarantine Rules against the entry of fresh fruits, vegetables, plants, meat and meat products, friends of President Rody Duterte and mine as well, have asked for consideration so that they could pass through Quarantine Officers,” Piñol said in a statement posted in his Facebook page.

“We are begging for your understanding because we could not exempt anybody from the rule that these products could not enter the country without the needed sanitary permits,” he said.

Piñol said he hopes they will understand the dangers they pose if these products are allowed to enter the country.

“Alam ko marami ang magtatampo (I know many will have hard feelings over this),” he said, apparently referring to the “friends” who were refused special consideration.

Countries hit by ASF include Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine and Zambia.

The DA chief said the ASF particularly threatens the country’s hog industry “and we have to institute strict quarantine protocols.”

“Let me just remind you of the implications if we become complacent or if we accommodate requests for exemptions,” he said.

Besides, Piñol said, the Philippine Banana Industry now is facing a serious problem because of Fusarium or Panama Disease, which originated from another country.

“How do you think it got here? That is a result of the complacency of quarantine officers in the past,” he added.

According to the rules of the Bureau of Customs, agriculture quarantine restricts the entry of animals, fish and plant products or their by-products (such as meat, eggs, birds, fruits, etc.).

Transport of endangered species and their by-products is also restricted/prohibited by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regulations.

Likewise, export of such products and by-products must be referred to quarantine officers to ensure compliance with Philippine regulations and requirements of country of destination. Failure to obtain prior import and/or export permit from the DA together with corresponding health sanitary or phytosanitary certificate from country of origin and to declare the same may result to seizure, fines and/or penalties. (PNA)