AGRICULTURE Secretary Proceso Alcala has tapped Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima to pressure the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in stepping up the government’s fight versus meat smuggling, by giving his department more teeth to control the problem.
In a letter that was also copy-furnished to Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon, Alcala said he has already asked the BOC several times to provide the Department of Agriculture with “unfiltered and on a real-time basis” the so-called Inward Foreign Manifest (IFM).
The DA earlier asked for copies in order to track the IFM, which is a record of the shipments that enter the country.
The IFM contains several declarations, including the country of origin of the imports. The DA said it would need this to check if the cargo conforms to its veterinary quarantine certificates.
He also asked Purisima on the status of the floor prices on the imports that he had earlier suggested.
The agriculture chief had recommended the increase in reference prices of imported pork offal from 50 US cents per kilo (P21.50 a kilo) to $1.97 (P84.71 a kilo), and for prime meat from 80 US cents to $2.15 per kilo. For chicken, the increase was pegged from 54 US cents a kilo to $1.23, which Alcala based on the prevailing world prices.
Alcala also said documentation and clearance release procedures by the DA must first be carried out before the BOC could come in to collect duties and taxes.
Alcala said his requests were in support of the “anti-smuggling effort of the current administration to ensure a fair playing field and competition in the local hog and poultry subsector.”
Biazon allegedly refuses to release a copy of the IFM, which he said was “sensitive” and could be used by market players to control meat prices.
Earlier, Abono chairman and Swine Development Council director Rosendo So asked: “Is Commissioner Biazon telling us that he cannot trust Secretary Alcala to handle such a sensitive document when the IFM would effectively check smuggling and over-importation by speeding up the inspection of 40-foot container reefer vans containing imported frozen meat?”
Meat importers have earlier threatened to go on a holiday because of the government’s alleged failure to address smuggling.
So said Biazon had already promised, even during a congressional hearing, that his office would be providing the DA with the IFM.
“Commissioner Biazon gave commitment in front of us and with the presence of all the congressmen who attended the public hearing. He even set a deadline of June 15 in giving the IFMs to DA. Deplorably, up to now, not a single copy of IFM has been transmitted to the DA. This only shows that the BOC is deliberately refusing to provide the DA copies of these IFMs,” So said. (ABS-CBNnews.com)