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Measures vs threats to biosecurity proposed

NOTING the entry into the country of various hazardous materials recently, a House leader has filed a bill that could provide for a strategic and integrated approach to analyzing and managing relevant risks from biological and non-biological threats in order to protect human, plants and animal populations, including the environment and the eco-system.

In filing House Bill No. 1336 or Biosecurity Act of 2020, Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero noted that the Philippines, being an archipelagic country with vast coastline and porous borders is vulnerable to different threats or risks to its animals, plans, human (or population) and its environment.

“The different Biosecurity threats may be in the form of foreign invasive species or invasive alien species (IAS) that may affect the agricultural plants and animals. Or infectious diseases that affect humans,” explained Romero, President of the 54-strong Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI).

The Act defines Biosecurity as the strategic and integrated approach to analyzing and managing relevant risks in order to protect the general health and well-being of the country’s human and animal populations, environment and ecosystem from biological threats (posed by diseases and other living organisms) and non-biological threats (including, but not limited to, hazardous and solid wastes; chemical, biological, radiological-nuclear, explosive (CBRNE) materials and weapons of mass destruction) brought or caused to be brought into the country, or used, manufactured or produced which may cause harm, either through malicious intent or negligence. Romero cited Article II, Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which specifies that it is the prime duty of the Government to serve and protect the people.

It is the State’s duty and obligation to ensure the health, welfare and safety of the present and future generation of Filipinos, Romero said.

“That hazardous materials can enter the country in many ways. The ballast water of ships from foreign ports, can contain thousands of aquatic microbes, plants and animals, and can be released into the Philippine waters, thus, introducing invasive marine species,” Romero added.

The lawmaker mentioned the case of the Canadian garbage, which was shipped to the Philippines in 2013 via the Port of Manila that made headlines and led to protests by environmentalists and public health activists.

There was also the case of the 5,000 tons of waste from Jeju Island, South Korea that made its way to the Port of Cebu in January 2017, according to him.

He said the shipment of waste may have been intentionally misdeclared since its documents declared it as wood chips and recycled synthetic resins.

“Biosecurity bill is earnestly sought to safeguard the nation’s survival and well-being of the human, plant and animal populations, environment and ecosystem in the face of Biosecurity threats,” Romero stressed.