Philippines to tackle smuggling imports of meat says Minister

MANILA - The rampant smuggling of foreign meat and vegetables must be stopped by the government right at their countries of origin, Senator Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said.
calendar icon 12 February 2003
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Pimentel deplored that the smuggling of these farm products into the country has reached unmanageable proportions, noting that customs authorities have not succeeded in stopping them as they reach the country's various ports.

He said the entry of these contraband meat and vegetables from China, Taiwan and other countries has gone unabated even after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo created the Anti-Smuggling Task Force headed by Brig. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, chief of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

If the problem is to be decisively eliminated, the opposition lawmaker suggested that the Arroyo government should talk directly to the government of the countries where these smuggled meat and vegetables emanate.

"I believe that this massive smuggling problem should be solved through bilateral negotiations at the highest levels between our government and the foreign governments concerned," Pimentel said.

He said Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople and Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho should initiate the discussions for possible anti- smuggling agreements with their counterparts in the countries concerned.

Pimentel said the launching of a food blockade by hog raisers indicates that the problem of meat smuggling has gone from bad to worse.

Last week, three major groups of hog-raisers stopped the delivery of pork, poultry and other meat products to Metro Manila, 10 provinces and one city to force the government to stop the massive importations and rampant smuggling of foreign pork and carabeef.

They launched the food blockade to protect the P80 billion (US$1.5 billion) meat industry in the country.

Pimentel said the vegetable-farmers in the Cordillera provinces have continued to complain of huge losses due to increasing competition from imported and smuggled vegetables.

While several container vans containing smuggled vegetables have been intercepted and seized at various seaports, by law enforcers, Pimentel said the smuggling problem is far from eliminated.

Unless tougher and broader measures are implemented by the government to curb smuggling, Pimentel said there may come a time when even infected meat, like those contaminated with mad cow disease, may reach the country's shores and distributed in meat markets.

Source: AsiaPulse via COMTEX - 12th February 2003
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