Speeches


October 17, 2012


Sponsorship Speech of Senator Manny Villar on FOOD SAFETY ACT


I RISE TO SPONSOR SENATE BILL NO. 3311, THE FOOD SAFETY ACT OF 2012, UNDER COMMITTEE REPORT 445 WHICH SEEKS TO STRENGTHEN THE COUNTRY'S FOOD REGULATORY SYSTEM TO ADVANCE CONSUMER HEALTH PROTECTION.


ESTEEMED MEMBERS OF THIS AUGUST CHAMBER, WE ALL KNOW THAT FOOD IS CONSIDERED TO BE ONE OF MAN'S MOST BASIC NEEDS. WE NEED IT TO PROVIDE NOURISHMENT FOR OUR BODIES, AND TO FUNCTION PROPERLY AS HUMAN BEINGS. WITHOUT FOOD, WE CAN HARDLY SURVIVE. WHETHER OUR FOOD IS PREPARED AT HOME OR BOUGHT OUTSIDE, WE NEED THE ASSURANCE THAT WHAT WE CONSUME WILL NOT CAUSE US HARM. FOOD-BORNE DISEASES CAUSE GREAT SUFFERING, AND AT TIMES, EVEN DEATH.


SENATE BILL 3311 ADDRESSES A PRESSING ISSUE THAT AFFECTS BOTH YOU AND ME -- FOOD SAFETY. ACCORDING TO THE FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO), FOOD SAFETY IS AN ELEMENT OF FOOD SECURITY.


THIS IMPORTANT PIECE OF LEGISLATION LAYS DOWN A COMPREHENSIVE FRAMEWORK THAT SETS THE BENCHMARK FOR FOOD SAFETY IN VARIOUS STAGES -- FROM THE HARVEST, MANUFACTURE, PROCESSING, HANDLING, PACKAGING, DISTRIBUTION, MARKETING, PREPARATION OF FOOD UNTIL CONSUMPTION.


ALLOW ME TO HIGHLIGHT ITS FIVE IMPORTANT FEATURES:


NUMBER 1. DELINEATING THE MANDATES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF FOOD BUSINESS OPERATORS AND GOVERNMENT AGENCIES INVOLVED IN THE FOOD SECTOR;


A. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF FOOD BUSINESS OPERATORS ARE CLEARLY DEFINED IN THE BILL, AS ENUMERATED IN SECTION 14. EMPHASIS IS PLACED ON THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS AND PROCEDURES OF FOOD LAW RELEVANT TO THEIR ACTIVITIES; THEIR ACCOUNTABILITY ON INSTANCES OF FOOD RECALL; INSPECTION, AND COLLABORATION WITH REGULATORY AUTHORITIES.


B. SECTION 15, ON THE OTHER HAND, PROVIDES THE SPECIFIC MANDATES OF CONCERNED GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, LIKE THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (DA) DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (DOH), DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (DILG), INCLUDING LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS (LGUS).


        a. THE AREA OF PRIMARY PRODUCTION OF POST HARVEST STAGES OF THE FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN;

       b. THE DOH, FOR THE SAFETY OF PROCESSED AND PRE-PACKAGED FOODS; LGUS, FOOD SAFETY IN FOOD BUSINESSES SUCH AS SLAUGHTERHOUSES, DRESSING PLANTS, FISH PORTS, WET MARKETS, RESTAURANTS, EVEN WATER-REFILLING STATIONS.

       c. THE DILG, WORKING IN COLLABORATION WITH THE DA, DOH AND OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, SHALL SUPERVISE THE ENFORCEMENT OF FOOD SAFETY AND SANITARY RULES AND REGULATIONS AS WELL AS THE INSPECTION AND COMPLIANCE OF BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENTS AND FACILITIES WITHIN ITS TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION.

      d. THE MONITORING OF THE PRESENCE OF BIOLOGICAL, CHEMICAL, AND CONTAMINANTS IN FOOD SHALL BE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DA AND DOH, IN COOPERATION WITH THE LGUS.


NUMBER 2. PROVIDING A MECHANISM FOR COORDINATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF REGULATORY FUNCTIONS.


SECTION 20 PROVIDES FOR THE CREATION OF THE FOOD SAFETY REGULATION COORDINATING BOARD (FSRCB) , WHOSE POWERS AND FUNCTIONS INCLUDE THE MONITORING AND COORDINATING THE PERFORMANCE AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE MANDATES OF THE DA, DOH, DILG AND LGUS IN FOOD SAFETY REGULATION; CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND PLANNING DURING FOOD SAFETY EMERGENCIES; ESTABLISHMENT OF POLICIES AND PROCEDURES FOR COORDINATION AMONG AGENCIES INVOLVED IN FOOD SAFETY; AND THE CONTINUOUS EVALUATION ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF ENFORCEMENT OF FOOD SAFETY REGULATIONS AND RESEARCH AND TRAINING PROGRAMS.


NUMBER 3. ESTABLISHING POLICIES AND PROGRAMS FOR ADDRESSING FOOD SAFETY HAZARDS AND DEVELOPING APPROPRIATE STANDARDS AND CONTROL MEASURES.


WITH REGARD TO FOOD SAFETY HAZARDS, THE RAPID ALERT SYSTEM WILL BE PUT IN PLACE IN RESPONSE TO FOOD SAFETY EMERGENCIES THAT ARE LIKELY TO POSE RISK TO HUMAN HEALTH (SEC. 23)


ALSO, A TRACEABILITY MECHANISM SHALL BE ADOPTED AS A CONTROL MEASURE FOR FOODS AT RELEVANT STAGES OF PRODUCTION, POST HARVEST HANDLING, PROCESSING OR DISTRIBUTION.


NUMBER 4. UPGRADING THE CAPABILITY OF FARMERS, FISHERFOLK, INDUSTRIES, CONSUMERS AND GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL IN ENSURING FOOD SAFETY.


SECTION 31 PROVIDES FOR THE REGULAR CONDUCT OF SKILLS TRAINING OF FOOD BUSINESS OPERATORS, PARTICULARLY MICRO, SMALL AND MEDIUM SCALE ENTERPRISES REGARDING FOOD SAFETY REGULATIONS AND THE UNDERSTANDING OF THESE REQUIREMENTS. FOR FOOD HANDLERS, MANDATORY TRAINING ON SAFE FOOD HANDLING AND SIMILAR COURSES, AND FOR GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL, TRAINING ON THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR THE PROVISIONS OF THE LAW AND THE CONDUCT OF OFFICIAL CONTROLS.


FOR CONSUMER EDUCATION, AS PROVIDED FOR IN SECTION 32, THIS SHALL BE DEVELOPED BY THE DA, DOH AND LGUS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, THE IMPLEMENTATION OF WHICH SHALL BE CARRIED OUT BY THE LATTER.


LASTLY, STRENGTHENING THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS OF THE REGULATORY SYSTEM.


SECTION 34 MANDATES THE IMPLEMENTATION OF AN IN INTEGRATED FOOD-BORNE DISEASE MONITORING SYSTEM THAT LINKS TO THE SOURCES OF FOOD CONTAMINATION, IN COLLABORATION WITH THE DOH NATIONAL EPIDEMIOLOGY CENTER AND THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND CONTROL.


IN THE AREA OF RESEARCH, SECTION 35, THE GOVERNMENT AND ACADEME SHALL DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT A PROGRAM ON COST EFFECTIVE TECHNOLOGIES AND CODES OF PRACTICE FOR ASSISTING FARMERS, FISHERFOLKS, MICRO, SMALL AND MEDIUM SCALE ENTERPRISES AND OTHER STAKEHOLDERS TO ENABLE THEM TO COMPLY WITH FOOD SAFETY REGULATIONS.


GIVEN THAT OUR HEALTH IS SOMETHING WE VALUE AS MUCH AS OUR LIVES, A SYSTEM OF PENALTIES IS IMPOSED, THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION PROVIDES STIFF PENALTIES TO THOSE WHO SHALL VIOLATE ITS PROVISIONS, RANGING FROM FINES AS LOW AS 50,000 PESOS TO 300,000 PESOS AND SUSPENSION OF APPROPRIATE AUTHORIZATION TO CONDUCT BUSINESS/PREPARE FOOD. HIGHER PENALTIES SHALL BE IMPOSED IN CASE THERE IS PHYSICAL INJURY OR DEATH AS A RESULT OF THE VIOLATION OF THE ACT, IF THE OFFENDER DOES NOT HAVE THE APPROPRIATE AUTHORIZATION, OR A GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL, OR A NATURALIZED CITIZEN, OR ALIEN.


FELLOW LEGISLATORS, I SUBMIT TO YOU, FOR YOUR COLLECTIVE CONSIDERATION AND CONSEQUENT APPROVAL, SENATE BILL 3311 TO PUT IN PLACE A MEANINGFUL FOOD SAFETY POLICY THAT ENSURES THE HEALTH OF EACH FILIPINO CITIZEN, FROM FARM TO TABLE.