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Piñol cancels permit to import meat

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on Tuesday ordered the immediate cancellation of import permits of all agricultural products.

In a press conference, Piñol said the move aims to prevent unscrupulous individuals or groups from permit-recycling and technical smuggling.

“We will be cancelling (import) permits but we will require those holding valid permits to come to the Department of Agriculture (DA) Central Office in Quezon City for an immediate review of their permits to make sure that all permits are no longer being recycled,” the DA chief explained.

Piñol has ordered a technical working group led by DA’s Legal Division to review the possible imposition of uniform tariff rates for good meat and offals.

Offals are variety meats, pluck or organ meats, refers to the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal.

“I was informed by Senator Cynthia Villar of a recent United Nations (UN) report on the alleged discrepancy in the volume of exported or imported meat and offal meat over the last few months,” Piñol said.

He noted that there seems to be a greater volume of offals than good meat, which would indicate that “there is technical smuggling, meaning there are good meat being declared as offal when it enters the country.”

Piñol also noted that recycling of permit usually happens during Christmas season because of the higher demand for meat products.

Currently, application for import permit is conducted online with a minimal fee of P300. The import permits for various agricultural products are issued by the Bureau of Animal Industry, Bureau of Plant Industry, National Meat Inspection Service, and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

“Some importers use their permits all over again. The only way to check this is to cancel all permits previously issued. I will personally make sure that every import permit that will be issued is valid,” he added.

Piñol said unscrupulous individuals sometimes apply for a number of import permits then try to sell it to importers.

Piñol said the Department will conduct a two-month review of the proposal. (Ellalyn B. de Vera)