THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is targeting a 100-percent inspection of the country's food imports to ensure food safety and prevent the entry of transboundary pests and diseases.
The DA said it had made an agreement in principle with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to establish the country's first of the five planned first border control facility.
The project will be known as Cold Examination Facility in Agriculture (CEFA) that will be built at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Zambales.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar met with SBMA Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Wilma Eisma last week, who expressed support for the said proposal.
"We thank SBMA chair and CEO Eisma for the smooth negotiations, pending approval of the SBMA Board, that will jumpstart the process of procurement," Dar said.
Under the planned CEFA network, the DA is proposing to use a 2,000-square meter lot at the freeport zone for 25 years, renewable upon mutual agreement.
Once operational, the Subic CEFA will be able to conduct thorough inspections of containerized agricultural commodities through risk assessment, complemented by x-ray screening of the Bureau of Customs.
"The Subic Bay Freeport Zone is an ideal location because it is well-connected to the main Metro Manila highways," Dar said.
The CEFA project has a total of P521-million fund allocation from the Office of the President, which will be used to for laboratories manned by quarantine officers and technical staff from the DA's bureaus and the National Meat Inspection Service.
Each facility will feature controlled temperature systems that will enable quarantine officers to inspect the contents of high-risk containerized shipment and prevent the possible spread of hazardous biological agents, such as toxins, and radioactive elements.
Based on DA's estimates, the Subic CEFA would earn at least P130 million yearly from testing and inspection fees.
The Agriculture department also said that the construction and operation of the Subic CEFA and four other first border control facilities are expected to generate employment in the respective localities.
"In all, the completion of the CEFA network will be one of the major accomplishments of the Duterte administration, as global biosecurity and quarantine protocols are put in place and strictly implemented to keep the country's agriculture and fishery sector free from transboundary pests and diseases, and protect the health and welfare of Filipinos," Dar said.