New regulations could deny border entry to foreigners found illegally carrying meat products, Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Lee Tui-chih (李退之) said yesterday.
Lee made the remarks during a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Economics Committee, after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) and other lawmakers asked him to comment on quarantine policy regarding pork products from areas affected by African swine fever.
The disease was first reported in China in August, and the council last week increased the fine for importing pork from affected regions to NT$200,000 from NT$50,000 for the first offense.
The fine’s deterrence ability is questionable, as about 80 percent of travelers caught with pork from areas affected by the disease were Chinese or Vietnamese, who as foreigners could ignore the fines, Chiu said.
The government should instead be authorized to bar those caught with illegal meat products from entering the nation, she said.
DPP Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) backed Chiu’s suggestion and said that the National Immigration Agency’s cooperation is assured.
He also asked the government to step up quarantine enforcement for the Lunar New Year holiday in February, when travel numbers are expected to peak.
The Executive Yuan is to call a meeting next week to consider the proposal, Lee said.
In a post-meeting news conference, Lee said that preventing the disease’s spread is a governmental priority and regulatory changes could be promulgated as early as the week following the meeting.
The change would have to be weighed against the penalties imposed for other breaches of customs regulations, such as importing weapons or narcotics, Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Director-General Feng Hai-tung (馮海東) said.
The council would need to come up with an entry denial guideline that corresponds with the threat level posed by agricultural, animal and plant-affecting contagious diseases, he added.
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