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Date
 22/10/2001
News Provider
 Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani
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 NULL
Headline
 Philippines to block EU curb on vegetable oil expo

MANILA, Oct 17 Asia Pulse - The Philippines has joined its ASEAN partnersin exerting all their political and trade influence in the internationalcommunity to block efforts by the European Union (EU) to curb SoutheastAsia's vegetable oils and fats exports using food hygiene as alibi.Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Montemayor said this was the consensusreached by his counterparts from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos,Cambodia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Indonesia and Myanmar during the23rd meeting of ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) heldrecently in Medan, Indonesia.He said his colleagues has tasked Indonesian agriculture minister BungaranSaragih, AMAF chair, to formally request the European Commission torescind a controversial directive, which if carried out, will severelyrestrict oils and fats exports from ASEAN member nations.The controversial European Community Council directive provides thatedible oils and fats such as cooking oil, refined palm oil and all otherfood grade oils and fats sold in bulk should be transported in dedicatedtanks and vessels to ensure they don't get contaminated.If adopted, Montemayor said, edible oils and fats exporters would facedifficulty looking for dedicated tanks and vessels and incur higherfreight charges, making their products more expensive and less competitivein the world market.Under current practices, these foodstuffs are loaded in specificcompartments of vessels whose prior load needs not be edible oils and fatsas long as they are internationally recognized as acceptable priorcargoes.The directive is contained in a draft code of hygienic practice for thetransport of food in bulk and semi-packaged food, which Europe sponsoredand submitted to the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) for approval, butwhich was shelved.CAC is a world body that sets and regulates food and agriculturestandards, provides guidelines on food safety, food transport, foodstorage and other matters.In its recent meeting in Geneva last July, the CAC instead adopted theCode of Hygienic Practice for the Transport of Foodstuff in Bulk andSemi-Packed Foodstuff, which clarified that the EC-supported draft codewas not applicable and that dedicated transport was not the norm in thetransport of edible fats and oils.Despite the setback, EU continues to lobby in various international fora,including the Codex, to have its controversial directive adopted,insisting that the move was a hygienic measure against possible foodcontamination.However, ASEAN member nations oppose the move, saying that if implemented,it would be too restrictive and would have negative impact on the region'smulti-million dollar edible oils and fats industry."The Philippines can't take this issue sitting down. Along with ASEAN, wewill muster enough support from friendly nations just so this directivewill not be carried out," Montemayor said.He added that the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia would talk to otherIslamic countries who are members of the Codex to support the ASEAN standon the controversial directive.Montemayor said the Philippines and Thailand will also lobby ASEAN's causebefore the South American countries to gain their sympathy and to get therequired vote at the CAC to overrule the directive.At present, Indonesia and Malaysia refined palm oil exports wouldadversely be affected if the directive will be adopted and implemented.The DA said the Philippines would not, as yet, be affected with thedirective considering that its current oil exports to Europe consistsmainly of crude coconut oil, which is not covered by the measure."But it is the Philippines' and ASEAN's interest to have the directiverescinded not only as an expression of ASEAN solidarity but also becausewe plan to export cooking oil in the very near future," Montemayor said.


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