MANILA— The Department of Agriculture (DA) has warned the public against buying smuggled vegetables from China.
“Other than sa price manipulation meron din siyang problema sa food safety, kasi for as long as walang import permit, meron siyang health hazard, health threat talaga siya. Makikita mo agad sa boxes, may tatak na China, madali ma-identify, malinis na malinis, 'yung local production may lupa lupa, eto linis na linis,” DA Assistant Secretary Federico Laciste Jr. said during his inspection of a warehouse in Malabon City Friday.
(Other than price manipulation, it also poses risks in food safety. For as long as there are no import permits, there is a health hazard. It's really a health threat. You can see the China label through the boxes. It's easy to identify. Very clean. Local produce has traces of soil.)
“May health risk kasi hindi ito dumaan sa proper process, pagka wala tayong sanitary, hindi natin alam na paano na-carry, baka may pests pa 'yan,” he said.
(This has health risks because this has not undergone proper process. If there is no sanitary measures, we do not know how these were carried. There were probably pests.)
The DA’s warning came after it confiscated thousands of smuggled vegetables in a warehouse in Malabon, Thursday.
Officials from the PNP, Bureau of Customs and DTI raided the warehouse at the Unican compound along Gov. Pascual Avenue in Barangay Catmon and found truckloads of smuggled vegetables.
According to the DA report, a total of seven (7) makeshift reefer containers were found inside the warehouse, 3 of which contained smuggled carrots, broccoli and red onions from China with an estimated value of P4.7 million. Laciste said the DA has since prohibited the importation of the said vegetables.
“May mga report kami natatanggap, that's why lahat ng information bina-validate namin,” Laciste, said referring to the raided warehouse.
(We received reports that's why we validate information.)
“Meron protocol, dadalhin namin sa authorized disposal facility,” he added.
(There is a protocol and we bring them to an authorized disposal facility.)
During the DA’s inspection Friday, BOC officials also already ordered the closure of the warehouse.
“Itong facility na ito has been running for almost one year, sabi ng warehouse man nila rito, one year na siyang every week, four containers na ganitong iba-ibang laman, wala naman daw hindi nila alam na puro smuggled pala 'yan. Nag-issue na ang BOC, kinlose na ito, at pinadlock na,” Laciste said.
(This faciity has been running for almost a year. It's been running every week for a year, with four similar containers with different contents. They've been saying they do not know the contents. Customs already issued closure orders. The facility has also been padlocked.)
“Meron po kaming standing instruction na i-double ang effort, panawagan namin sa publiko, kung meron ganitong impormasyon ipagbigay alam sa amin agad,” he said
(There is an instruction to double efforts. We urge the public to report similar incidents right away.)
A total of 8 individuals, all caretakers have been placed under custody by the PNP-CIDG. Laciste added, the DA has also requested the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to conduct a K9 sweep inside the warehouse.
Last September, Agriculture Secretary William Dar launched an investigation to go after illegal smugglers. He also tasked the Bureau of Plant Industry to conduct random inspections of imported vegetables to ensure food safety.