THE draft implementing rules and regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Act of 2009 has yet to be finalized after seven months of having been enacted into law.

According to the Food and Drugs Administration Director Nazarita T. Tacandong, the University of the Philippine (UP) Law Center is still working on the draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the new food administration law.

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While the draft IRR is being finalized, the new schedule of licensing and registration fees designed to meet the financial requirements of a modernized food and drug regulatory system has also yet to be imposed.

Tacandong noted that public consultations have already been conducted regarding the new schedule of fees and it merited strong disfavor from various sectors.

Notwithstanding, the FDA has already submitted the revised fees to the National Economic Development Authority (Neda), which is mandated by Cabinet Resolution No. 1 Series of 2007 to approve all new fees and increase in fees imposed by all departments, bureaus, agencies, and offices of the National Government.

Under the new schedule of fees, the establishment licensing fees are increased by at least 250 percent, the product registration fees by at least 500 percent, and laboratory services by at least 100 percent.

While food producers and drug manufacturers appreciate the objectives of the new law, which is primarily to upgrade personnel and laboratory equipment and facilities, they are dismayed by the financial burden that comes with this measure.

As pointed out by Philfoodex president Roberto Amores, foreign governments have assumed the responsibility of modernizing laboratory facilities in an effort to help improve the competitiveness of their food products without passing on virtually the entire financial cost to the producers.

The Philippines has missed ample export opportunities for not being able to satisfy the food safety requirements of other countries.

Oscar Barera, chemical sector Trustee in the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport), said that the reason for the missed opportunities is possibly because of the perception that the country’s food exports are unsafe, but that it does not have the equipment to show that these products do meet the food safety standards set by other countries.

These missed export opportunities are likely to burgeon with the United States and the European Union hinting to impose more stringent requirements related to food safety and the environment.

The US FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is expected to be signed into law anytime soon requiring import certification of a greater number of products, while the European Union is now implementing its Fishing Regulation: Catch-Certification Scheme that will cover all export of fishery products to the EU. (Ritchelle Alburo/Philexport)