Aquino lauds Philippine livestock sector for ensuring food safety from farm to fork

President Benigno Aquino III has recognized the effort of the livestock sector in safeguarding public health while ensuring enough production to meet the demand for meat and poultry products.

The chief executive took note of the twin achievements in his keynote address during the opening ceremony of Livestock 2015 Philippines Expo on June 25 at the SMX convention center in Pasay City.

As you know, the Philippines has been performing very well in terms of food safety. Our country has been free from Avian Flu since 2005, and of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) since 2010,” he pointed out.

The three-day Livestock Expo 2015 is an international trade exhibition focusing on the farm to fork concept. Participated by local and foreign stakeholders in the livestock industry, the biennial activity is fast-gaining a reputation as one of Asia’s prestigious livestock shows highlighted by exhibits of the latest livestock equipment and technical sessions by experts from various countries in Asia.

Aquino, who was formally introduced by Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, noted that the Philippines recently attained the highest level of recognition as a country free from FMD without vaccination, which further increases the country’s competitiveness in the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Integration this year. 

“Only four ASEAN countries, the Philippines included, can boast of this recognition. The goal now is not only to maintain these standards, but also to ensure that our livestock sector continues to grow,” he declared.

To fully support the industry, the administration increased the budget of the sector by 108 percent, he added.

“Our administration’s increased commitment in this regard can be seen in how much we have invested in livestock and poultry. Over the course of our term, we have increased the budget of this sector by 108 percent. This has given us the wherewithal to increase focus on animal health by providing vaccinations and undertaking disease surveillance, among other measures, to control, if not eradicate, these animal diseases,” he said.

He also mentioned that key legislation have been passed to promote food safety and security with the amendment of the Meat Inspection Code. 

“With the help of allies from Congress, we amended the Meat Inspection Code, which imposes stricter fines for food safety violations, perhaps most prominently the transport or sale of the so-called ‘hot meat’. There is also the Food Safety Act of 2013, which strengthens our food regulatory system to better protect consumer health and facilitate our food exports,” he stated.

The President said that the achievements of the Philippines in terms of food safety “make us eligible to export meat.”

At present, the Department of Agriculture is pursuing two large-scale projects–a Class AAA poultry dressing plant in Bamban, Tarlac and a Class AAA slaughterhouse in Tanauan, Batangas–to maximize the country’s eligibility as a meat exporter. Both of these projects are expected to be completed this year.

Aquino also highlighted the efforts being made of the livestock sector to further attract and forge new and deeper partnerships with private investors.

“I understand that more than half the exhibitors here are visiting from other countries and looking for opportunities in the Philippine livestock industry. We continue to offer incentives for those willing to invest in these industries in non-traditional areas, and invite all visitors present today to fully explore the possibilities, and to look for opportunities through which we can amplify each other’s strengths towards a more robust livestock sector,” he said.

Since its inception in 2011, the Livestock Expo Philippines has drawn interest from the international agribusiness community, indicative of which was that 80% of the attendees of this year’s edition were foreign companies. The expo continues to attract some 8,000 quality trade visitors from 16 countries.

More than 200 brands of meat products from 18 countries were highlighted during the three-day exhibition co-supported by the Department of Agriculture and its attached livestock agencies, namely, the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) and National Dairy Authority (NDA), as well as the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS).