by Kremlin Montenegro and Sarsi Pimentel
MANILA, Philippines-The leaders of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list on said on Saturday, the fish freezing machine installed in the Sentrong Pamilihan ng Produktong Agrikultura ng Quezon (SPPAQ) in Sariaya, Quezon province is defective and likened it to a time-ticking bomb ready to explode at any given time.
In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente warned end users especially vegetable farmers and fisherfolk on the extreme danger posed by the quick freezing machine to health and immediate surroundings where the unit is installed.
Reports reaching the headquarters of Pamalakaya in Quezon City revealed that the machine is not an ice-making machine, but a quick freezing machine the employs a type of highly combustible chemical alcohol and formalin to assure freezing and maintain the freshness of fish and vegetables once these are stored inside the machine.
“It is like a time-ticking bomb ready to explode at any given time because of the highly flammable substance used for quick freezing. The safety and the health of the people are sacrificed at the altar of this graft-ridden and corruption tainted machine,” Hicap and Clemente lamented.
On January 26, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Reform (BFAR) deployed the quick freezing machine, one of the 98 units acquired by the government from the Integrated Refrigeration Systems and Services Inc, (IRRS), which was bought at an overpriced cost of P 4.6 million per unit or P 455 million.
The unit was disposed along Maharlika Highway in the village of Sampaloc II in Sariaya, Quezon. Hernando Decena, inventor of the freezer machine using the new brine immersion freezing (BIF) technology, explained that unlike conventional ice-making machines, his invention can store agricultural produce like fish, meat, leafy vegetables and fruits in sealed styrofoam foam boxes for two to three days without ice.
“If these commodities are placed inside standard refrigerators or freezers after being frozen in BIF freezers, these can last from six months to one year and still preserve the quality of these goods,” Decena explained during the demonstration. It takes as little as three to 30 minutes (depending on type, size and volume of product to be processed) to freeze a product using BIF, compared to the conventional method, which takes three-four hours, the DA said during the demo activity.
The machine is capable of freezing a maximum of 500 kilograms of vegetables in one operation. But Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list leaders refuted the claims of the inventor, asserting that the same technology was banned in different countries like South Korea and the United States 30 years ago because of its devastating impact to health and environment.
Both groups also said the dangerous machine was overpriced by P 3.9 million per unit and P 2.3 million per unit as originally claimed by their groups. They said the industry players argued that the quick freezing machine bought by the government should only cost taxpayers a little over $ 15,000 USD or P 700,000 per unit and not P 4.6 million per unit.
Pamalakaya pressed Malacanang to recall the contract between National Agribusiness Council (Nabcor) and IRRS Inc. following the discovery of the overpricing and the defective status of the freezing machine. The group also said the government should immediately pullout the freezing unit in Sariaya to prevent it from causing future damages to the people.
Last January 6, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis filed a plunder complaint and other criminal and administrative charges against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap, officials of Nabcor and the Bid and Awards Committee of the Department of Agriculture and private officials representing IRSS in connection with the highly questionable procurement of 98 ice-making machines. #