Meat dealers sue agency-A A +A
Thursday, December 16, 2010
CEBU CITY -- At least 18 imported frozen meat dealers from various provinces, including the cities of Talisay, Mandaue and Cebu, complained about “discrimination” in an administrative order on monitoring meat imports more strictly.
They filed a petition for declaratory relief and asked the Cebu City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to stop Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala from enforcing the order, which takes effect this week.
But RTC Executive Judge Meinrado Paredes on Monday denied the petitioners’ application for a restraining order, saying the matter to be restrained is outside the jurisdiction of the court.
“Other than the bare allegation of extreme urgency, there are no facts and circumstances in support thereof. Besides, there is likewise no allegation of grave injustice and irreparable injury,” said Judge Paredes.
Judge Simeon Dumdum Jr. of the RTC Branch 7 will tackle the petition next year.
Last Nov. 23, Secretary Alcala issued Administrative Order 22, which provides the rules and regulations in the handling of frozen meat products in the market.
The order, states, among others, that those selling frozen meat shall secure accreditation from the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), or register with the concerned local government unit.
The Cebu City Government confiscated Wednesday at least 200 kilos or at least P16,000 worth of frozen meats, an official said.
Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries (DVMF) Chief Dr. Alice Utlang said the frozen meats were confiscated from the markets of Carbon, Taboan, and T. Padilla.
“The meats were confiscated because they sold it in the wet market without a freezer, which violated the administrative order of the Department of Agriculture,” she said.
A Cebu City councilor wants the city abattoir to get an accreditation from the NMIS, but it will first have to undergo renovation using part of the P35.8-million budget proposed for its operations next year.
Councilor Raul Alcoseba, chairman of the committee on markets, said the abattoir has to be accredited by the NMIS so the City can designate it as the only slaughterhouse that will operate in the city.
Alcoseba said the abattoir has not been renovated since it was built 35 years ago and because of the poor condition of its facilities, it has failed to get NMIS accreditation.
In Talisay, the City Council approved last Tuesday a resolution requesting the Office of the City Veterinarian (OCV) to regularly inspect meat products, as a preventive measure against the sale of double-dead meat.
Double-dead meat refers to meat taken from an animal that has died of disease and been cut up for sale in public markets.
But dealers of imported meat said it’s unfair for the agriculture department to single them out.
The petitioners said they submitted a position paper to Alcala and asked him not to push through with the implementation of the order.
“It is illogical for the policy-making authorities to issue an unjust and discriminatory regulation to (imported) frozen meat, on the ground that it is the local fresh meat that is more at risk,” the petitioners said.
Frozen meat, the bulk of which comes from imported meat, passed through the international standard procedures before these reached the local market, they said.
The petitioners are Estrella Ladera Meat Trading, Judphilan Foods Corp., Three Dragons Development Corp., Meatcore Corp., Ludens International Trading Corp., Jesus Escaño Development Corp., Kitchen Solutions, Alfa All Foods Asia, Inc., LJC8 Enterprises, DPO Philippines, and meat dealers from Cebu – Corazon Sepra, Dolores Nunez, Wivina Abad, Versan Tecson, Romeo Maturan, Zenaida Tampos, Lilibeth Tanilon and Discora Mancao.
In Talisay, Councilor Richard Francis Aznar filed his resolution for regular inspections amid reports that the sale of double dead meat is rampant in Cebu “and is also possible here in the city.”
Those who sell double dead meat face penalties under Republic Act 9296, or the Meat Inspection Code, and the Consumer Act of the Philippines.
In Cebu City, the renovation of its abattoir, estimated to cost P15 million, is one of the items in the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries’ (DVMF) proposed budget.
But in yesterday’s budget hearing, Alcoseba pointed out there are private entities willing to undertake the renovation, under the build-transfer scheme.
“So the City does not have to spend for anything,” he said.
There are around 300 to 400 animals slaughtered in the Cebu City abattoir every day.
Dr. Utlang reported that during the peak season, the number could reach 600, most of which are hogs.
Among the improvements needed is the installation of slaughter machines, which will allow the DVMF to have just one area for the slaughtering of animals.
Utlang proposed an allocation of P35.8 million next year, even if it was able to operate a budget of P16.2 million this year.
She said the increase was mainly for capital outlay, with P15 million being earmarked for the renovation of the building.
Utlang said the projected income from slaughterhouses for 2011 is around of P36 million. Its income this year is P15.87 million.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 16, 2010.