Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol relieved the whole Quarantine Group assigned at the country's main airport of entry, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), effective 5 p.m. today, Friday.
Piñol said the group failed to comply with an earlier order issued by the Agriculture Department to institute Quarantine protocols to prevent the entry of pork products from areas affected by the African Swine Fever.
"I will issue the order today even as I am here in the Bicol Region personally assessing the damage of Tropical Depression Usman and ensuring immediately delivery of interventions," the agri chief said.
"The relief of the whole Quarantine Team at the NAIA should send a clear message to members of the Department of Agriculture (DA) family that we cannot take Administrative Directives for granted," he said.
Pinol will also issue an order directing the DA Internal Administrative Service (IAS) to conduct an investigation and establish whether the officers could be charged with dereliction of duty.
The threat of the ASF was monitored by the OIE as early as last year and the Philippines has already established a plan of action to prevent the entry of the disease into the country.
"Shortly before the holidays, I ordered Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Acting Director Ronnie Domingo to ensure that footbaths and other Quarantine measures are established in all entry points of the country as the dreaded ASF, a disease killing pigs in at least eight countries, was reported spreading in China," he said.
The directive was for all Quarantine Stations to establish Footbaths in all entry points of the country, the interception and confiscation of all pork-based products
Yesterday, however, Pinol read a report quoting agriculture advocate Rosendo So as saying that he saw no such Quarantine Procedures at the country's main airport.
Upon reading the report, Pinol called up Domingo and confronted him about it.
Domingo admitted that the NAIA Quarantine Group failed to establish the Footbath facility "because of procurement issues" and it was the only station which failed to implement the directives.
"This an alibi which I will never accept as I have always believed in the Pilipino saying: "Kung gusto, maraming paraan; Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan," he said.
"As Secretary of Agriculture who is in charge of the implementation of these measures, I apologize to the stakeholders of the hog industry for this administrative lapse," Pinol said.
Pinol admitted there are still weak links in the Department which need to be corrected.
Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler