Press Release
May 4, 2023

Tolentino wants to determine appropriate gov't action plan vs Avian Flu

MANILA - Senator Francis 'TOL' N. Tolentino is seeking an inquiry in aid of legislation to determine the appropriate government actions in preventing and controlling another possible outbreak of the Avian Influenza virus in the country.

According to Tolentino, there should be a clear and solid policy from authorities to avert and ward off any possible outbreak of transboundary animal diseases in the country contingent on the unabated importation of poultry products, since it will ultimately lead to adverse public health effects and demise of Philippines' local poultry industry.

"It is high time for the Senate to ensure that risk-based planning, strict prevention protocol, and proactive legislative action are in place to minimize public health risk and fundamentally, to accord our local poultry sector with the support and opportunity as active partners in development and nation building," said Tolentino in filing Senate Resolution No. 580.

As of February 9, 2023, nine regions remain affected by the Avian Flu as per the Bureau of Animal Industry, while more than 300,000 poultry mortalities have been recorded since the outbreak of the said virus the country in 2022, according to the report submitted by the said agency to the National Banner Program Committee on Poultry and Livestock (NBPC on PL) on February 14 of this year.

The World Organization for Animal Health earlier warned that the presence of Avian Flu "may restrict international trade in poultry meat that can heavily impact economies."

In May 2022, the A-H5 variant outbreak in wild birds and poultry has been reported to spread in 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, United States and Canada with the first human infection recorded in Ecuador in January 2023 and consequently, deaths of hundreds of sea lions and pelicans in Peru.

Tolentino has expressed concern on the matter especially over reliable reports that various commercial public wet markets in Metro Manila recently have revealed their respective inventories of imported chicken that either: (a) those that can be identified are from Brazil, USA, Netherlands and Canada with expiration dates ranging from 1 to 2 years from the date of production; (b) with no labels pertaining to production and distribution; and; (c) without sticker from the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS).

"The sale of the said imported poultry meat brazenly violates the provisions of the law under Republic Act No. 7394, or the 'Consumer Act of the Philippines'... it fails to qualify with the Philippine National Standards on the Code of Hygienic Practice for the Sale of Fresh Agriculture and Fishery Products in Markets and Authorized Outlets," the senator stressed.

Based on the existing policy on imported poultry products, all fresh meat should be properly stamped or branded and issued with a meat inspection certificate. Meanwhile, all imported frozen meat from cold storages should be accompanied by Certificate of Meat Inspection (COMI).

Tolentino warned that the high inventory of imported poultry products amid the unabated importation of finished goods "poses a significant threat to the immediate and long-term prospects of the local poultry sector in the county" and puts consumers at risk to the potential adverse effect of other transboundary diseases.

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