‘Mutt & Jeff’ giving Pinoys a bad name

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Among serious breeders and importers of game fowl, one of the key elements in bringing good material from the United States and elsewhere is having an experienced professional shipper who consolidates birds coming from different parts of the United States, Mexico and, on rare occasions, from Europe or Australia and ships them to Manila.

Being a “pro” means you know the airline schedules, both domestic (US) and international. It is also important to be able to have a network or good working relations with individuals or companies who will do the inspection, handling and pick-up of the birds from the originating farm. It is an added bonus if the shipper has been around and is recognized among farm owners in the US.

For as long as I can remember, the go-to-guy in terms of shipping birds or sabong breeding material was none other than Serge Capistrano, who was well known among the big-time breeders and importers of game fowl from the US. Serge, as I recall, shipped birds as a side hustle, made a name for himself and eventually settled in his farm in Lipa, Batangas. In his absence, a handful of individuals filled in to serve the needs of Filipinos buying roosters or breeders in the US.

But in the last decade or two, the level of professionalism and reliability began to come under question. Some so-called shippers either charged above reasonable rates, would not go the extra mile or had no network to pick up chickens from farms. Others had poor relationships with the airlines and could not get preferred dates of departure, especially arrival. Such long delays have been known to result in half a shipment arriving dead.

Worst of all, some shippers reportedly tampered with, replaced or stole the very chickens they were supposed to ship. It was the sabong version of the Salisi gang. The thieves would gently pry off the wing bands on the chickens they wanted to steal, put the wing band on a lookalike set of chickens and sell off the real McCoys to clueless Filipino breeders.

This unprofessional and sometimes criminal behavior led importers to reduce importation, form buyers’ groups and have someone from their team stay behind to ship everybody’s chickens to NAIA. But even this could not compare to having a true local and enthusiast doing the job for you.

Then one day, a young man who allegedly used to live in the Bataan refugee camp for Vietnamese refugees found his way to the US, grew up, got educated in the US, but never lost his love for game fowl, which he probably acquired in the Philippines or the US as a young boy. He eventually got to meet US breeders, farm owners, even those “south of the border – down Mexico way.” Soon he knew his way around, had contacts and learned from the best.

I don’t know how he got started as a “shipper” but in the last two years all I ever heard about this young Vietnamese guy named Daniel Wahn was: Daniel is reliable, Daniel is trustworthy, Daniel does not do any monkey business, follows the rules and many of Daniel’s customers are big-time, well-connected cockers and breeders. Many of them don’t like hoodlums messing with their birds and in their business.

Last Saturday, I found out that some local hoodlums and associates had reached out or paid a visit to Daniel’s local staff who receive and facilitate shipments from the US/Mexico to Manila. They expressed interest in the business – as in taking a percentage or perhaps acting as “consolidators” the same way shipments of game fowl from all over the Philippines were suddenly consolidated under one group sometime during the COVID lockdowns.

In effect, the “Mutt & Jeff” crew would get a cut or be in control of receiving and processing all game fowl-related shipments that were handled by Daniel Wahn. If Daniel refused to cooperate, “Mutt & Jeff” threatened to block all their shipments from the US because they claimed to know high ranking officials inside the Bureau of Animal Industry and claimed to have influence with the OIC-director Dr. Paul Limson.

Unfortunately for the “Mutt & Jeff” crew, the head of one of the most active breeders and cockers associations recently called Daniel Wahn to work out the requirements, costs and logistics to import several breeding trios from the US. Daniel could not commit rates or prices because he himself was unsure how to treat the “extortion threat” made by the “Mutt & Jeff” crew.

Word eventually got around and a former undersecretary of the DILG wisely sought out OIC-director Limson to bring the claims of “Mutt & Jeff” to his attention. Dir. Limson strongly denied any such links, interests or influence on the office, especially since he himself was just recently appointed by Malacañang.

At the very least, “forewarned is forearmed” for Dr. Limson who should probably rotate, audit and investigate what’s really going on in terms of shipping permits, requirements and processing for game fowl not just for those coming in from abroad but also for inter-island shipments. The OIC-director may not be aware but the common complaint I hear among breeders, shippers and sellers is the perception that BAI actively inserts red tape or complicates matters.

Thanks to the attempt of the “Mutt & Jeff” crew to extort and blemish Filipino reputation, we now have reason to ask BAI, NAIA or Congress to investigate who decided that only one group will process or consolidate local shipments to NAIA. Baka si Mutt at si Jeff also?!

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