Bureau of Plant and Industry Palawan OIC area manager Tiburcio "Bong" Jagmis (right) inspects the fresh white/yellow onions confiscated on December 21 from the city's public markets. | Photo from the BPI Palawan

The fresh white or yellow onions seized Wednesday from the city public markets can’t be donated because they are part of the supplies that tested positive for Escherichia coli (E. coli), which can cause food poisoning in humans, an official from the local office of the plant industry bureau said.

Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) provincial office OIC area manager Tiburcio “Bong” Jagmis told Palawan News that they understand the public’s sentiment that “destroying them was a waste of food,” but it is dangerous to donate them because they were discovered to be part of the contaminated supplies that are unfit for human consumption.

“Hindi po sila safe for human consumption ng dahil sa E. coli. Ang E. coli ay—para sa kaalaman ng lahat—galing sa dumi ng tao at hayop. Sa mga hindi nakakaalam, baka akala nila basta basta lang [puwedeng] i-donate at kainin. Hindi ganoon,” Jagmis said.

“Dumaan yan sa laboratory at nagpositive sa E. coli. Yong mga kasamahan nyan doon sa Manila—kung titingnan ang sako na pinaglagyan ay Made in China. May proper facility kami hindi lang sa sibuyas kundi pati sa mangga na may mango pulp weevil. Ganoon din ang ginagawa namin, pinapakuluan, tapos after 5 minutes, may hukay kami, or compost area, doon namin hinuhulog,” he explained.

Sacks of white onions seized in the port of El Nido are loaded unto a vehicle for proper handling. | Photo from the BPI Palawan

Last week, the Department of Agriculture (DA) discovered through phytosanitary inspection that smuggled white onions intended for sale in Kadiwa centers to caution the impact of rising prices of red onions were contaminated with E. coli, according to a Laging Handa briefing by deputy spokesperson Rex Estoperez.

Jagmis stated that they confiscated supplies sold in both the city’s public markets and the port of El Nido. Those seized weighed 231.7 kilograms and had a market value of P81,095. Of the total, 105 kilos were seized in El Nido.

He explained that prior to any confiscations, retailers in public markets and shopping malls had been warned to stop selling the product in question.

“Yon ang unang ginawa namin para ma-inform sila, at para makatulong na rin, para huwag na nilang ituloy ang pagtitinda ng ilegal,” Jagmis said.

According to him, their justification was the order issued by BPI OIC regional director Gerald Glenn Panganiban to all national, regional, and local plant quarantine services for their seizure and destruction because they do not have Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC).

“Nag warning kami hindi lang isa o dalawang beses, maraming beses, para hindi nila kami masisisi na nagkulang kami sa information,” he added.

“Hindi nangangahulugan na kung may hawak pa silang mga white onions, pakuluan lang nila ay safe na. Delikado pa rin yon for human consumption,” Jagmis further explained.

Jagmis has made a request to the general public for assistance in their efforts to keep their vigilance up and stop the sale of imported white onions that do not have SPSIC and is dangerous to human health.

Additionally, he urged that the management of all entry points be vigilant in protecting the general public’s safety by not allowing illegally shipped onions to leave the pier in container vans without being inspected.

Vessel operators can also make a difference by preventing supplies from being transported if they are aware that they lack the necessary government permits and SPSIC.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.