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Philippines Govt Looks out for Illegal Chicken Imports

16 December 2008

PHILIPPINES - The aim is to prevent poultry products possibly contaminated with the avian influenza virus being imported from Hong Kong or China.

As Hong Kong destroyed thousands of poultry products suspected of having the bird-flu virus, Philippine government forces tightened the noose on importers of chicken meat to ensure that no surplus from Hong Kong or China would find its way to the local market, according to Business Mirror of the Philippines.

Presidential Antismuggling Group (PASG) head Undersecretary Antonio Villar Jr. said in a statement the precaution was necessary to protect the health of the people and the poultry industry in the country, which has so far managed to be free of bird flu.

"If there is a need to employ man-to-man guarding just to make sure these bird-flu-afflicted chicken would not reach the local soil, we will do it," Mr Villar said as he issued orders to his field directors all over the country to see to it that no shipment of imported chicken meat from the said countries would leave the ports unchecked.

The safety measures against avian flu covers all meat, eggs and other products from domestic and wild birds.

National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Deputy Director Edmund Arugay immediately assigned his all-NBI team into three groups, each tasked to monitor shipments of imported chicken.

"I will coordinate with the proper authorities like the National Meat Inspection Services (NMIS), Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD), and the Bureau of Customs. We have to be strict on this matter as chicken meat is the most saleable food item during this time of the year," Mr Arugay said.

Mr Villar said the PASG is at the vanguard of efforts to spare the country from the possible tragedy this disease may spread among Filipinos, being strict on the importation of exotic fowl meats. "This time, the threat is real and so close to us that we must be in constant alert, since smuggling syndicates care less of the tragic backlash of their illegal activity for as long as they earn much."

Mr Arugay ordered his teams to exercise spot checks on suspected of storing 'hot' poultry products and scrutinize import documents as these may show telltale signs of deceit.

Mr Villar ordered Mr Arugay also to check other suspicious cargoes as smugglers may use other legally imported items as cover for the banned meat product from China or Hong Kong.

The Philippines has not recorded any case of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, and is, so far, one of the few Asian countries which was spared from bird flu since the late 1990s, when neighbouring countries were struck by the virus.

Last summer, South Korea also destroyed thousands of poultry to arrest the spread of bird flu.

The Business Mirror article concluded that the latest effort in Hong Kong, according to Mr Villar, "should be a matter of grave concern for all of us here in the Philippines".

Further Reading

- You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.




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