What You Should Know About Pork and Meat Importation ProcessBy admin On May 9, 2012 Under Bureau of Customs, Governance
It has been alleged by leaders of the local hog raising industry that the Bureau of Customs is abetting the smuggling of pork and pork products and that it has gone unabated. Of course, the BOC asserts that it does not abet smuggling, although it is a fact that unscrupulous importers persistently attempt to cheat the government and sometimes succeed.
But in order to properly assess the situation of pork smuggling, it is necessary for everyone to know the process involved. Contrary to public perception, in the importation of meat, the Bureau of Customs plays a secondary role in ensuring that the imported meat (poultry, pork, beef and other meat products) conforms to government standards as to quality, quantity and classification.
The Department of Agriculture (DA), through the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), not only has the qualifications and credentials, but the authority to regulate meat importation. In the entire process, from the beginning to end, those agencies have a major role in ensuring that meats which enter our country are adhere to prescribed quantity, quality and handling.
The role of the Bureau of Customs in meat importation is to process the documentation to ensure that documentary requirements are complied with, assess the duties and taxes to be made based on the classification of the imported product, and release the shipment within the worldwide standards of trade facilitation.
The importation process via Customs Clearance procedures is participated in by two of the Department of Agriculture’s regulating offices, the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS).
Such control and scrutiny is provided for under the DA’s Administrative Order No. 26, series of 2005, the Revised Rules, Regulations and Standards Governing the Importation of Meat and Meat Products Into the Philippines.
The said AO provides for strict regulation of meat and meat products importation from the issuance of import permits, compliance with importation process requirements all the way to the liquidation of importations.
While it cannot be stated that there is absolutely no technical smuggling since there have been apprehensions in the past, a simple conclusion cannot be made that shipments are smuggled without proof that the strict importation clearance process were violated. It must be noted that the numbers that are being used by leaders of the as basis for their conclusion are based on imports with the required permits.
The Rules and Regulations of Meat and Meat Products Importation
Under AO 26, importers must first secure a Veterinary Quarantine Clearance (VQC) from BAI, which is defined as:
“…the document being issued by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) prior to importation indicating that based on readily available information: (a) the source/s of meat and/or meat products are free from relevant diseases/contaminations; and (b) the accreditations of both the importer and the FME (exporter) are in ‘good standing’. The VQC also prescribes the conditions and risk management measures necessary in the conduct of importation that are to be observed by the importer, exporter, and the NVA at the country of origin.”
Section VIII of AO 26, entitled Border Control Inspection and Clearance and Release Procedures provides:
- Border control shall be conducted strictly for all shipments of meat and/or meat products. To ensure timely initiation and completion of veterinary and meat inspection and clearance, the importer/consignee or his/her authorized representative shall submit to the Veterinary Quarantine Office (VQO) all the required documents of these mandatory pertinent to the shipment as prescribed in Section VIII (C.1).
- Upon arrival of any shipment of meat and/or meat products at the port of entry as defined in Section I (S), this shall be subjected to documentary verification and evaluation, veterinary inspection by DA. Only upon completion of these mandatory activities and clearances shall the BOC release the shipment. (emphasis supplied)
As the import entry of pork, poultry or meat is processed, the Veterinary Quarantine Officer (VQO) of the BAI has the duty to perform the following:
- Verify and evaluate the authenticity, validity and accuracy of VQC (original), IVC (original), Bill of Lading/Airway Bill and Packing List submitted by the importer/consignee;
- Subject the shipment to veterinary quarantine inspection and further documentation;
- Reseal the container van/s carrying the meat and/or meat products;
- Issue and sign the Veterinary Quarantine and Meat Inspection and Laboratory Certificate
(VQMILC) (attached as Annex “C”) and stamp “INSPECTED AND PASSED FOR TRANSFER TO NMIS ACCREDITED COLD STORAGE” on the authentic copy of the BOC import documents/entries;
- Issue official receipt for the payment of necessary DA inspection fees; and
- Endorse the original VQMILC and the shipment to NMIS for meat inspection and/or laboratory analysis, as required.
It important to note that Bureau of Customs personnel neither possess skill nor the authority to scrutinize or inspect the pork, poultry or meat product. The determination if the actual product being imported is the same as the declaration on the import entry is the duty of the VQO from the BAI, who possesses the necessary qualifications, training and authority to perform the task.
In the clearance of pork, poultry and meat products, the BAI plays the key role considering the necessity in ensuring the quality and state of the product versus the import declaration. In the case of pork, poultry and meat products, the role of BOC is to process the documentation, assess the duty and tax and collect the same.
The role of the DA does not end there. After the shipment is cleared through the Customs Clearance process, the NMIS performs additional tasks as provided by AO 26:
- Immediately designate and dispatch an NMIS Inspector and conduct meat inspection within 24 hours;
- Check and verify the integrity of the VQMILC and BAI seal.
- Complete the inspection and/or laboratory analysis within:
|1. One (1)-day (inspection)||
|2. five (5)-day (inspection and laboratory analysis)||
- Sign the VQMILC that was endorsed by BAI VQO if the NMIS inspection and/or laboratory test results are satisfactory; and
- Give the completed VQMILC (original) to the BOC (copy furnish BAI and the importer), which shall then be the basis of the BOC for the final liquidation of the importation documents. The final liquidation of the importation documents does not preclude the importer from utilizing the shipment. (emphasis supplied)
Section X of AO 26, provides for the Confiscation and Disposition of imported meat and meat products in violation of the rules and regulations. Under this section, there are two stages of the meat importation that the DA, through the BAI and NMIS, performs functions that ensure the importation’s correctness and compliance to regulations and law.
Section X.B.1. provides:
“At the port of entry, the BOC upon the recommendation of the quarantine officer, shall confiscate the imported products if:
- The seal of the container of the shipment has been broken
- The shipment lacks a valid VQC.
- The shipment has no IVC issued by NVA at the country of origin.
- The volume/quantity of goods imported exceeds the volume indicated in the approved VQC and IVC by more than three (3) per item; provided that only the volume/quantity which exceeds the allowable limit shall be confiscated.
- The shipment is not sourced from accredited FME.
- The animals slaughtered are not from DA approved area, region, or country.
- False claims, misrepresentation, and misbranding as may be evidenced by mislabeling of meat and/or meat products.
- The meat and/or meat products have arrived beyond the “date of minimum durability”/ expiration date.
- The shipment has been labeled not in conformity with Section VII (C) (1 to 9) or absence of any of these labeling requirements;
- The shipment is found to be infected by any OIE lists A and/or B disease.
- Other deliberate violations of the provisions of this Order including refusal of the consignee/importer to access/secure pertinent documents relevant to the shipment.”
It is noteworthy to point out that based on the above, any misdeclaration will be discovered by the BAI inspector due to the stringent requirements of AO 26. It also establishes that in the clearance of meat and meat product imports, the BOC takes a secondary role owing to the highly technical nature of meat and meat product inspection which only the BAI possesses the expertise.
Further to this, Section X.B.2. provides
“At the cold storage/warehouse/port of inspection, the BOC upon the recommendation of the NMIS inspector, shall confiscate the imported products if:
- The BAI seal is broken/removed not by NMIS inspector.
- Part of, or the entire shipment is utilized, processed, marketed and/or distributed without VQMILC.
- The shipment is found to be carrying any disease-causing organism.
- The shipment contains any toxic or deleterious substance, which may render it injurious to health.
- The shipment contain any added toxic or deleterious substance other than allowed (a) food additives, and (b) color additives (c) contaminants at levels beyond the prescribed/established tolerance.
- The shipment consists, in whole or part, of any filthy, putrid, rotten, decomposed substance or foreign matter, or otherwise unfit for human consumption.
- The container or packaging materials in direct contact with the meat and/or meat products are found to be composed of, in whole or part, of any poisonous or deleterious substance, which render the contents injurious to health.
- Other violations that pose risks to human and animal health/life.
- Other deliberate violations of the provisions of this Order including refusal on the consignee/importer to access/secure pertinent documents relevant to the shipment.”
The mandatory presence of NMIS at the DA accredited cold storage facility/warehouse of importers also provides a level of security that ensures compliance to DA regulations even after shipments are cleared through Customs.
There is a need to emphasize that misdeclaration of imported meat can only happen if the rules and regulations imposed by the Department of Agriculture through the BAI and NMIS are not strictly enforced by its personnel.
While the processing of importation documents does go through the BOC, the technical limitation of customs personnel on meat inspection and the rules and regulations provided by the appropriate regulatory agencies for pork, poultry and meat products importation place us at a secondary role in determining the correctness of the import declaration.
From import permits to importation process requirements and all the way to final import liquidation, the DA through the BAI and NMIS imposes strict regulations and controls over meat and meat product coming into the country, while the BOC imposes the duty and tax and provides the documentation process.
First Hand Experience
Last May 5, I was informed by a member of my field team that they had intercepted a container van suspected to be loaded with misdeclared meat. According to the import declaration, the cargo was fats. In response to the clamor of the hog raisers, we had placed on alert shipments of fats, offals and skin.
The suspect container van was set aside for inspection and I personally went with the team which opened it. When we opened one of the boxes from the container van, we saw what appeared to be fats mixed in with some meat.
By that alone, a lay person would have probably thought I could order right then and there the confiscation of the cargo since what we saw was not pure fat but fats with meat attached. In fact, one of the members of my field team already concluded that it was a misdeclaration.
But in the highly technical field and process of customs administration, my field team does not have the authority or qualification to make that conclusion. According to law and procedure, only Customs Examiners are authorized to determine if the product is correctly declared. Further to that, for meat importation, the Veterinary Quarantine Officer (VQO) of the BAI has the authority to certify if the meat is properly declared since they are the ones with the expertise.
So for this particular shipment, our observations were not official, so a Customs Examiner came in and inspected the cargo and its documentation. Then a VQO from the BAI inspected the cargo to ascertain if the cargo is the type of meat that is indicated in the declaration form.
In the end, the BAI officer certified that the cargo was indeed classified as fats, since the meat attached to it was still within the tolerable limit of DA standards. He explained that since the cargo was mechanically separated fats, there was an allowance for meat to be inadvertently attached to the fats.
There are some importations that require technical experts to determine the correctness of the importation. It is in this regard that in the importation of poultry, pork and other meat products, the Department of Agriculture takes a crucial role in enabling the Bureau of Customs to perform its duty while ensuring that the safety of the public is not threatened. For meat importation, the integrity of the process is a joint responsibility with the BAI and NMIS.
Weeks before the threat of a five-day pork holiday, I had already implemented measures to address the concern of the leaders of the local hog raisers. Still, they said they were not contented. A couple of days ago, a meeting was held between DOF, BOC, DA and the leaders of the local hog raisers, and we arrived at a consensus for a joint action plan.
The tension has eased somewhat, but the bulk of the work is still ahead.