By Minka Tiangco
The Manila City government intercepted about 25 tons of what they claimed is the biggest shipment of illegal meat products that tested positive for the African Swine Fever (ASF) virus at the Manila Harbour Centre in Tondo, Manila Wednesday afternoon.
A clinical laboratory report by the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Bureau of Animal Industry-Veterinary Laboratory Division showed that some pork celery dumplings that were smuggled in tested positive for the ASF virus.
Some 998 cartons of chicken pot wrapped meat, 449 cartons of chicken with black pepper, and 199 cartons of popcorn chicken, all coming from Guangzhou, China, were discovered by the Special Enforcement Squad of the Veterinary Inspection Board.
Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso ordered the closure of Ecosafe Agro-Products Manufacturing, where the smuggled meat was found, and that is owned by a certain Fernando C. Cortez, for misrepresentation in the documents they filed to secure a permit.
Investigation showed that Ecosafe Agro-Products Manufacturing was listed as a service contractor and does not have a business permit for meat importation and cold storage.
Dr. Nick Santos of the Manila City Veterinary Inspection Board said they became suspicious of the warehouse after they saw that the Bureau of Customs permitted it to render meat, despite not having any rendering facilities.
“Nagtataka kami bakit nakapasa pa siya sa Customs bilang rendering plant, eh wala naman siyang rendering facilities (We were wondering why it passed Customs as a rendering plant when it doesn’t have any rendering facilities),” he told reporters.
“Kaya tinutukan namin, hindi namin pinalabas (That’s why we focused on it, and we did not allow the meat to leave the warehouse).”
Domagoso urged officials to adopt a “sense of urgency” in getting rid of infected meat for the safety of the public.
He added that there should be no condemnation businesses in the city of Manila.
“There is no reason for illegally-acquired products, more so sick and dangerous products,” he said. “We are mandated to protect the general welfare of our people particularly ang kanilang kalusugan at kaligtasan (their health and safety).”
Police are now hunting for the owner of the warehouse.
Cortez may face charges for violating Republic Act (RA) No. 9296 as amended by RA 10536 or the Meat Inspection Code of the Philippines, RA 10611 or the Food Safety Act of the Philippines, and DA Administrative Orders series of 2005 or the Revised Rules, Regulations, and Standards Governing the Importation of Meat and Meat Products into the Philippines.