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Trade experts urge stricter import policies

Maria Romero



Trade experts are seeking to add teeth anew to the country’s existing import policies to ensure maximum consumer protection and food safety while balancing trade.

In a press briefing on Monday, Trade facilitation analyst Jhunafe Ruanto said the government, through the Departments of Agriculture (DA) and Trade and Industry (DTI), should impose stricter measures on imported products without violating any international trade regulation.

“Imposing stricter import regulations should not be costly. The government has no reason not to impose this… The retailing labels and lab testing should be shouldered by the importer because that’s how we ensure food safety,” Ruanto told reporters.

Ruanto pointed out that there are no standard protocols that protect consumers from “potentially unsafe” imported products.

Since some labels of the products coming from countries like China and Korea are not translated to either English or Filipino, batch identification number and manufacturing date of the products, for instance, are not clear.

Ruanto underscored that this could constitute unfair competition because the label could mislead the public as to the nature, manufacturing process, characteristics, suitability for their purpose, or quantity, of the goods.

When products are labeled properly, consumers can easily identify the manufacturer and contact them should the need so arise. In turn, well-labeled products significantly decrease the liability of manufacturers.

Unlike when exporting, importing products to the Philippines is easier, which resulted in the influx of foreign goods.

Atty. Virginia Suarez, who is also a trade expert specializing in supply logistics, noted that the government should instead support small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to balance trade.

Filipino consumers should also be encouraged to shift their buying patterns towards consuming and purchasing local produce and goods, Suarez said.

The latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that total imported goods as of end-August amounted to $7.20 billion despite an annual downtrend.

Exports during the same period only amounted to $5.13 billion.