Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero has ordered a 40-foot container van at the Manila International Container Port filled with imported meats condemned after the goods tested positive for African Swine Fever.
The container, consigned to Dynamic M International Trading Inc., arrived at the Manila North Harbor last Dec. 11 from China, and was put under an Alert Order for suspicion of containing misdeclared items. It contained various food items such as dumplings, pork-chicken balls, and roast chicken wings.
In a statement, the Bureau of Customs said it will destroy and bury the van. The Office of the Collector at MICP also issued an alert order for the other shipments consigned to Dynamic M, which has its warehouse in Kawit, Cavite.
Customs lawyers are also readying a criminal case against the company and will recommend its brokers’ licenses revoked.
“Given the circumstances we have today, every entry point in the country must be on its toes to stop any viruses or bacteria from getting to our shores. Our mandate is to protect our people and that’s what we intend to do,” Guerrero said, referring to the current spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.
“After 100 percent examination of its contents and undergoing laboratory test from the Veterinary Quarantine Services, the pork-celery dumplings indicated the presence of ASF virus,” MICP district collector Guillermo Pedro A. Francia IV said.
The BOC-MICP ordered an interagency team to immediately dispose the contents of the shipment following the VQS recommendation to prevent the spread of ASF, a highly contagious viral disease endemic in domestic and wild pigs.
The misdeclared items prompted BOC Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Raniel Ramiro to recommend its examination. The MICP Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service led the probe.
“We remain vigilant in ensuring the safety of the public from dangerous goods. Since the threat of the ASF was raised by the Department of Agriculture, Customs has always been proactive in preventing the entry of pork products in the country,” Francia said.
The seized items were not covered by any sanitary permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry, and the agricultural items, which may carry plant diseases and pests that can affect local agriculture, also were not covered by permits.
The Customs bureau has closely monitored the arrival of containers of meat and seafood products entering the Manila ports. In December, some 134 cargoes containing a variety of frozen seafood products were seized after its consignees failed to secure the proper permits for their importation.
The Bureau of Animal Industry, the National Meat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Customs Enforcement and Security Service, and CIIS witnessed the examination of the Dynamic M shipment.
Dr. Reynaldo Quilang, chief of Veterinary Quarantine Services-MICP, recommended that all contents of the container be condemned and buried at the importer’s warehouse compound. The condemnation of goods will go as scheduled after finalizing the disposal plan, he said.
“This is a message to all importers. We are not going to tolerate misdeclared goods or the importation of food products that will put our industries in jeopardy. We’ve already lost so much because of the swine flu. Our ports are not open for more of these products,” Guerrero said.
ASF is spread easily between members of the swine family through direct contact with the infected animal, or contaminated objects such as vehicles and equipment.
Although it cannot be transmitted to humans, global meat production has declined after an outbreak of African swine flu in many parts of the world.
Last October, at least 13 provinces declared an ASF outbreak, prompting local governments to stop selling of pork in markets, restaurants, and fastfood chains.
The Malasiqui local government in Pangasinan on Friday declared a state of calamity because of the effects of ASF on its hog raisers. It is estimated that the country’s hog industry is losing $20 million a month from the outbreak of swine flu. ASF kills hogs in as fast as seven days after being infected.
In September and October 2018, cases of pork meat products contamination have been recorded in Korea and Japan through dumplings and hotdogs products.