DA told to suspend new import rules
Business World
November 30, 2016

MEAT processors urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to put on hold the implementation of its new import rules, as delays in the release of permits could hike the price of canned goods.

At the very least, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors  Inc. (Pampi) said the DA should prioritize its members in the “revalidation” process to prevent delays in the release of import permits.

Pampi Executive Director Francisco J. Buencamino said importers belonging to their group are now incurring losses, as their shipments have been held up in ports due to the delay in the release of new import permits.

“Suspend [Memorandum Circular 5, Series of 2016] or get a clearance for Pampi members who have no record of violations to be accommodated in the super-green lane, so there would be less inspection,” Buencamino told reporters in an interview on Tuesday.

Importers allowed access to the super-green lane by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will get their customs clearance faster, and

are exempt from document and physical examination of regular importation andpreclearance process availability.

“Every container that is detained and held back, we incur about P4,500 per day per con-

tainer for plug-in for refrigeration. But as for the total cost, we cannot say until we complete all of this updating,” he added. Buencamino said the additional costs incurred by importers due to delays in the delivery of raw materials to factories are usually passed on to Filipino consumers. “With every delay, our additional costs increase when it [imported meat products] should have been released already and processed,” Buencamino said.

However, Pampi said it could not yet quantify the amount that consumers could shoulder due to the additional costs incurred by manufacturers.

Buencamino met with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol on Tuesday to discuss the new import rules and Pampi’s proposal.

Focus on CBWs

The Meat Importers and Traders Association (Mita) urged the DA to focus on customs bonded warehouses (CBWs) and undocumented importers rather than “highly regulated” and “compliant” ones if the government wants to stop smuggling.

In a letter sent to Piñol, Mita President Jesus C. Cham said smuggling occurs in the “illegal, opaque undocumented and noncompliant sectors” and possible leakages from the CBWs.

“Hence, after years of barking up the wrong tree, it is high time for the DA to shift its focus away from the legal, formal, documented and compliant sector and look instead at CBWs and undocumented importers,” Cham said in the letter dated November 28, a copy of which was sent to reporters on Tuesday.

“Too much time spent, looking over the shoulder of our sector is draining the dynamism and resources of all stakeholders, including the department itself,” he added.

Cham said for every day that the “revalidation” process of importation permits is delayed, importers like them incur losses that would be passed on the consumers.

“Every additional day a reefer stays at port costs the importer P10,000, multiplied thousands of times over, which will ultimately be passed on to the consumer. Nonissuances of new clearances mean lost business opportunities,” he said.

Cham said meat products imported by Mita members are “heavily regulated and under strict control and supervision.”

“The importer has already been accredited after undergoing stringent procedures by the DA and the BOC, which involves scrutiny of the importer’s credentials with the SEC [Securities Exchange Commission], the BIR [Bureau of Internal Revenue], the DTI [Department of Trade and Industry] and local governments,” he said.

“The importer has secured [an import clearance] through an electronic, noncontact system duly established by the DA, thereby precluding possibility of graft,” Cham added.

He said one of the documents required for quarantine

clearance at the port of entry is the International Health Certificate (IHC), which is issued by a competent authority of the exporting government.

“IHC indicates that quantity and description of items that are loaded in a particular container and, hence, is equivalent to a pre-inspection certificate issued by the government of the exporting country,” Cham said.

“IHC is an inviolable document which cannot be altered, changed or revised, thereby precluding the possibility of misdeclaration by the importer,” he added.

Cham also said importers pay the corresponding import duties or tariff based on the imposed reference price of the DA or the BOC.

He added that the containers of imported products are sealed by the Bureau of Animal Industry at the port of entry and transported to an accredited cold-storage warehouse, where only an inspector of the National Meat Inspection Service is allowed to break the seal and supervise the unloading.

MC 5

The DA released on November 22 Memorandum Circular (MC) 5, which authorized the review of the validity of all sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances to curb smuggling, according to Piñol.

MC 5 also ordered the creation of a group that would inspect all inbound shipments of agricultural goods and food before the BOC evaluates the tariffs for these shipments. Dubbed as the Agriculture and Fisheries Trade Facilitation Unit (AFTFU), it was created by the DA on  Monday. Piñol assured consumers on Tuesday that the price and upply of holiday goods will be stable despite the more stringent trade measures the DA implemented recently.

He also said importers who have inbound shipments of chilled or frozen products are being prioritized to avoid spoilage.

However, Buencamino said the revalidation process of import permits took more than 24 hours, contrary to what Piñol promised earlier that the process would take less than a day.

“That’s why we are forced to replug our shipments,” he said. Buencamino said holiday goods could become more expensive if the DA would drag its foot in completing the revalidation of the permits issued to legitimate importers.□