More than 20 X-ray scanning machines will be placed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and other major airports in the country to prevent the entry of meat contaminated with African Swine Fever.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the utilization of the Quick Reaction Fund of the department for the emergency procurement of 20 units of X-Ray machines which will be placed in all international airports of the country to check agricultural products, especially meat, brought in by passengers.
“Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, head of the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) Committee, endorsed the DA proposal citing the need for the country to protect its borders from plant and animal diseases notably the African Swine Fever which is devastating the hog industry of many countries,” said Piñol in a statement.
Dominguez also approved the installation of the meat and agri X-ray machines in the Customs area in all airports so that all hand carried and checked in baggages of incoming passengers, especially those coming from ASF-affected countries, could be checked.
At the moment, authorities with meat-sniffing canines are roaming NAIA terminals and other international airports to prevent the entry of fresh, frozen, cooked or uncooked animal meat and its processed meat products coming from the affected regions.
Customs NAIA under the leadership of District Collector Carmelita Talusan said her team will continuously support the DA to prevent the possible outbreak in the country which may put the swine industry at risk.
She said that to date, 4,496 kilos of meat and meat products were seized and turned over to Bureau of Animal Industry for disposal.
Airport officials reiterated that only importers with proper clearances and permits from government agencies tasked to regulate certain commodities such as the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Industry, and Food and Drug Administration, among others, can import meat products into the country.
Philippine quarantine laws prohibit the entry of meat, fisheries and horticulture products, including planting materials, if these are not covered by Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Permits issued by both the BAI and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
In the proposal submitted by the DA, a total of P130 million from the QRF will be utilized for the immediate purchase of the X-ray equipment and the implementation of additional safeguards against the entry of agricultural products through the airports.
The DA-BAI recently confiscated canned goods at the Clark International Airport which when tested by the Virulogy Division of the BAI contained genetic materials of the ASF virus.
Piñol believes that the country’s quarantine measures should be stricter to prevent the entry of animal diseases, like the devastating ASF.
The DA will be implementing stringent quarantine measures comparable to those of advanced agricultural countries like Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the US.
BAI Virulogy Section Dr. Rachel Azul said ASF viral gene has been detected in confiscated canned goods brought from overseas (Hong Kong) by a returning resident last March 25 at the Clark International Airport in Clarkfield, Pampanga.
So far, no African swine fever infections have been reported in pigs in the country.
The detection of the virus in seized products does not change Philippine’s African Swine Fever-free status.
The seizure is a warning for the industry and an acknowledgment of the catastrophic threat on our doorsteps.