Foodie nightmare

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - November 8, 2019 - 12:00am

In this day and age of mobile phones and selfies, it is already commonplace to see and read posts on Facebook about good places that serve great food with selfie walls to boot. But now that Asia is faced with the nightmare called ASF or African Swine Fever, we are slowly but surely hearing more and more cross-border nightmare stories experienced by Filipinos. My friend Cathy recently shared about her experience flying into Australia. While on board the plane they were served a bag of nuts each and because they could not finish it all, they decided to take the nuts with them when they disembarked. As they stood by the baggage carousel a cute little “pup” sat next to them and alerted the Aussie Customs that the travelers had food items on them. Their declaration was checked and the Customs officer asked why they did not declare the bag of nuts they brought down from the plane? Long story short, they experienced momentary fright, got a brief lecture about quarantine and Customs declaration but were let out of the airport.

This week, an even more frightening story that could be true, could be fake news, or urban legend has spread among local netizens about a Filipino traveler who absentmindedly carried a luncheon meat sandwich in his pocket or bag all the way to Japan and ended up being made to choose between paying a very large fine or be deported. For the record, I have heard two versions of the story. The other version puts the absentminded Filipino in Taiwan but also ends with his deportation to Manila. True or false, the tales do call attention to our habit of carrying food during our travels as well as bringing back home pasalubong or baon from abroad. Many Filipinos still don’t believe that you can also be stopped at the NAIA-DA quarantine and find any and all meat products from Asia confiscated.

Given the outbreak of ASF in some parts of Luzon and the discovery of ASF in meat products using imported pork, it now grows hard to argue against regional and provincial quarantine policies being enforced by LGUs. Ironically, while some provinces and cities are putting up “walls” to keep out ASF, they have not done any testing to find out if what they have in terms of imported by-products and finished meat products have ASF or not. While traveling through Davao province, a local veterinarian called my attention to so many roadside stalls selling chicharon in Barangay Sirawan in Davao. According to the vet there is a continuing influx of imported pork by-products particularly for chicharon. While we don’t want to throw fuel into the fire, it would be prudent for local government executives to voluntarily test such products to make sure that we are not bringing in the disease right into their backyard farms and piggeries!

One bit of good news is that some people are now more aware of ASF and are doing their part to prevent ASF or to undertake “Pasalubong quarantine”. A friend who recently visited Ilocos Norte had dreams of bringing home Bagnet and chicharon during his stay. But when it came time to go to the airport, his hosts advised him that instead of Bagnet and chicharon, they decided to send him off with bawang because the Bagnet and chicharon might end up being confiscated at the airport. My friend told me that he was so disappointed that he had to scream in silence: Ano ako aswang! Food Oh glorious food....no more!

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Secretary William Dar might want to sit down with his team at the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and talk about the pressure and apprehension being felt by NMIS officials and personnel concerning the testing of meat products for ASF virus. I recently learned that some people at the NMIS would rather that the Department of Agriculture depend on a third party foreign company to conduct testings for ASF because those companies can’t be threatened with lawsuits or intimidated by the big boys or corporate bosses of local processed food companies. Most government employees and officials know that if businessmen decide to sue you for any conceivable offense, you rarely get the special privilege of being defended by a government lawyer for free. Most civil servants I know have had to pay for their own lawyers and for those retiring, a lawsuit or court case can tie up the release of your retirement pay especially if you get entangled with a vindictive SOB whose greed for profit is only outdone for the ugliness of his character.

I do hope that Secretary Dar and his fellow cabinet members can sit down with the CabSec and the Presidential-Legislative Liaison officer to work out a special law that gives civil servants immunity from suit for doing their job in relation to their duties. This is a problem that has perennially caused sleepless nights for civil servants causing a few to retire or resign just to avoid the harassment.

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Here’s a big thank you to MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia for immediately ordering the removal of two abandoned vehicles parked on East Capitol drive in Barrio Kapitolyo, Pasig. Local residents pointed out the danger and the obstruction created by the vehicles; one of which has been abandoned for eight years allegedly because the owner “disappeared” and the other vehicle was parked eight months ago, its tires removed making it difficult to tow the car away. I was also told that the latter vehicle was just one of several that were left by the owner around Pasig City in order to clear his shop or garage of such unwanted or abandoned vehicles. In the US and Europe, authorities will hunt down the true owner and fine the hell out of them! Thank you again to GM Garcia for reclaiming the space.

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Email: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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