BY PET MELLIZA/ The Beekeeper
In May 1998, the Iloilo Hog Farmers Cooperative, Inc. broke ground for its “AAA” abattoir at the Iloilo Fishing Port Complex, Molo, Iloilo City.
The groundbreaking followed the protracted lobby by local swine raisers with the Department of Agriculture and the Philippine Fishing Port Authority, for a piece of land on which to erect an abattoir.
Two of the grounds raised by them for a triple “A” abattoir were: it would “add value” to Iloilo’s produce, to be “exported” to other regions in “frozen choice cuts” that would end the costlier practice of shipping live animals.
Iloilo was (and still is) the biggest source of live hogs, at least 190,000 heads annually, for Manila and Cebu. But it had not even a double “A” facility. Live animals risked losing weight and meeting accidents or illnesses while in transit and shippers incurred more costs paying hired hands to bring the animals to their destinations.
One come-on they raised was that, with the state-of-the-art facility, Iloilo’s
hotels would be eligible to be classified five-star. I couldn’t see the
connection between a hygienic abattoir and hotel classification. Anyway, the
group sounded plausible that must have convinced Gov. Arthur Defensor, then in his third and final term, to lend them his political weight in the lobby.
Nothing happened though at the fishing port complex after the groundbreaking. The hog raisers relocated to Leganes where it dropped the unfinished structure like a hot potato leaving the town the burden of completing it.
To recall, the Department of Agriculture plunked in P16 million under its
“economic competitiveness program” for the Iloilo hog farmers cooperative. The fund was only enough to build a double “A”; the cooperative had to put up a counterpart to raise it to triple “A”, that is, by installing a blast freezer.
A blast freezer, such as the one at the Iloilo fishing port, turns meat or fish
into stone hard ice in seconds, which thus, preserves its freshness.
The joint-venture of the cooperative and the government of Leganes was less profitable than envisioned. Its construction was marred by irregularities involving top officers. Like government, the cooperative had policy makers and managers who loved feathering their nests. Officers elbowed one another to supply construction materials and equipment to the cooperative. Procurements were overpriced. One even sold to the organization steel bars, galvanized sheets, trusses and beams – materials salvaged from his piggery.
There is only abattoir in Iloilo accredited by the National Meat Inspection
Board (NMIB) as double “A”, Passi City’s. It cost only P50 million to build it
in 2001. Now, it’s making money as exclusive processor in Panay of Monterey swine and cattle, one of the country’s biggest. The meat it processed is delivered throughout Panay and up to Manila daily.
Iloilo City which a certain Buenaventura Geronimo, alias “Jerry” and surnamed “Treñas”, bruited around in his nine years as “Queen City of the South”, must be elsewhere in time when he mentioned that.
Treñas erected a P70 million slaughterhouse on an overpriced land in Pavia town, not Iloilo City as his minions said. It had the makings of a double “A” abattoir when he left. It had functioning conveyor, lifts and chain blocks that suspended hog carcasses throughout the process.
Under the watch of city veterinarian Tomas Forteza, the abattoir processed 300 heads of hogs until 2 am and owners could then ship them out to the market. Today, it’s three to four hours later.
That was short lived though. Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog booted out Forteza and his trained crew and replaced them by the gang led by Vincent de la Cruz.
The NMIB refuses to accredit the slaughter even as single “A” that prohibits it
from processing cattle. That’s a warning: the meat from the Iloilo City
slaughterhouse is unsafe. It has no veterinarian nor licensed sanitary inspector to supervise it.
Its conveyors and chain blocks conked out. The carcasses are strewn on the floor along with dung and mud. Employees work half naked and in shorts, no longer protected by hard hats, aprons and boots as during the watch of Dr. Forteza.
Funny, Mabilog peddles the canard that the city needs P260 million to complete the city hall. He should listen to local architects who offered free services and a much lower price tag. His twistedness says he needs P200 million more to rehabilitate the abattoir. He should learn from Passi that built a better one for one-fourth his price.