Several stakeholders in the agricultural sector are celebrating the establishment of the first cold examination hub in the country.
Located in Angat, Bulacan, this facility, known as the ‘first border’, includes a laboratory where all imported animal meat, fish, and other perishable items will be tested. The main objectives of this facility are to ensure food safety, prevent the spread of animal diseases, and combat smuggling. The project is a collaboration between the Department of Agriculture (DA) and a private company.
But wait, Bulacan?
Despite the anticipation surrounding the launch of the Cold Examination Facility for Agriculture (CEFA), there are several concerns and questions emerging.
Firstly, the facility is located approximately 50 kilometers from Metro Manila, which means it takes around two hours to reach the Manila International Container Terminal under normal traffic conditions.
If shipments from the Ports of Batangas and Subic are included and require 100% inspection, the transit time can easily increase to 2.5 to 3.5 hours, not accounting for the time taken for actual inspection and the return trip, which could be significantly longer.
Apart from time and distance, importers are also wondering who will bear the additional cost of transporting the containers to and from the facility. Furthermore, what will be the inspection fee and to whom should it be paid?
If importers are expected to cover these costs, it could lead to additional expenses for doing business, which will likely be passed on to Filipino consumers.
According to insider sources, the DA is investing millions to construct a state-of-the-art laboratory on private land. However, it remains a mystery as to how and why the Bulacan facility was selected.
There are claims that the land was made available free of charge. However, as we know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. There are rumors that the landowner, Pacific Roadlink Logistics, Inc., will provide hauling services to transport the containers for a fee.
Naturally, agricultural stakeholders have additional questions. Did the project go through a public bidding process considering the involvement of government funds? If so, when was the bidding held and what were the terms of reference? On the other hand, if this is an unsolicited Public-Private Partnership project, why haven’t we heard about any Swiss challenge procedures?
Furthermore, it is intriguing that President Marcos, who is currently the agriculture secretary, was conspicuously absent during the project launch. If he supported the project, why wasn’t he present?
We will provide answers to these questions soon. Stay tuned!
– Daxim L. Lucas
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