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Noy won't sack Customs chief over meat smuggling

Manila, Philippines - Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of President Aquino despite criticisms from hog and poultry raisers that he failed to implement measures to stop the smuggling of meat, Malacañang said yesterday.     

Asked if Biazon might be sacked because of the controversy, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said: “The President has not mentioned any dissatisfaction, at least to us.” 

Hog raisers earlier said they may still launch another pork holiday if the Bureau of Customs (BOC) would not take action on meat smuggling. 

“From what I understand, they have already spoken to Commissioner Biazon. And in fact, they signed a memorandum of understanding for enhanced cooperation between the bureau and the hog raisers,” Valte said.  

“Perhaps, we should see what the results of this enhanced cooperation would be. I did hear Commissioner Biazon saying that he continues to talk to the stakeholders,” she said. Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) director Efren Nuestro had been relieved from his post while National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) executive director Jane Bacayo resigned last Wednesday amid calls for their removal due to rampant meat smuggling.    

Biazon, for his part, explained that the BOC is only in charge of processing the importation and documentation of meat products since it is the BAI that checks if the importation matches the shipment’s description.

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“The agency processes importations of meat only if they are accompanied by an import permit from the Department of Agriculture,’’ he said. 

Meanwhile, hog and poultry raisers said they are poised to hold a five-day holiday on the sale of pork and chicken throughout the country to dramatize their call on Malacañang to make good its promise to crack down on meat smuggling.

“Our message is not to penalize consumers but to point out that backyard raisers are going bankrupt due to unabated smuggling,” Rosendo So, a convenor of the Swine Development Council, said in a statement.         

Smuggling of meat also deprives the government of an estimated P60 billion in revenues annually, So added.

Agap party-list Rep. Nicanor Briones, Edwin Chen, president of Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines (Propork), Gregorio San Diego Jr., president of the United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA), and Daniel Javellana Jr., chairman of the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. (NFHFI), scored the apparent inaction of the Aquino administration to seriously address the concerns of the industry.

The industry stakeholders noted that aside from hog raisers, smuggling of meat also threatens other allied farm industries such as corn, coconut and rice which are engaged in the production of hog and poultry feeds.        

Briones said the BOC has yet to score any substantial success in its crackdown on meat smugglers.        

He said that despite the fact that around 100 million kilos of smuggled meat, mostly from China, find its way to local markets, the BOC has yet to catch anyone involved in the illegal trade.        

Chen, meanwhile, urged the government to “purge the list of meat importers of dummy corporations.”

“How can a corporation with a P30,000 capitalization earn up to P13 million a month?” he asked.           

The hog raisers welcomed Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s decision to delay the implementation of Administrative Order Nos. 5 and 6, saying the two issuances favor only the meat importers but are detrimental to the local hog and poultry raisers. – With Eva Visperas

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