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Senior BAHA representatives visit Central American airports to inspect the use of dogs and x-ray machines for non-intrusive baggage inspection

Posted: Friday, November 18, 2022. 8:00 pm CST.

Photo Credit: BAHA
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Belize is working at improving its detection services of prohibited agricultural produce at the Philip Goldson International Airport. To that end, the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) Managing Director Zoe Zetina and the BAHA Director for Quarantine Services Hernan Zetina this week visited four international airports in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to see how these countries use their x-ray and canine units to detect when travelers are bringing in prohibited produce.

The BAHA team visited La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, the Palmerola International Airport in Tegucigalpa, the Ramón Villeda Morales International airport in San Pedro Sula, and the Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez International Airport in San Salvador.

Belize is working in trying to prevent the entry of diseases like Swine Fever that is already in the Dominican Republic, the Banana Fusarium Wilt that has been detected in South America, and the Avian Influenza which is in Canada, USA, Mexico, Columbia, and Peru and has introduced the use of an x-ray machine and a dog at the Philip Goldson Airport seeking to improve on its surveillance.

“The main purpose of the trip was to look at how these airports manage their canine units and their x-ray units,” Hernan Zetina told Breaking Belize News (BBN).

“It’s called non-intrusive inspection. Rather than digging into people’s luggage what these countries have done is introduce canine and x-ray units and based on what is found then they would do a physical inspection if required.”

Zetina said the intention is to improve the quarantine services at the ports of entry. If the x-ray machines or the dog detect that someone is bringing in organic material, then the BAHA quarantine officer at the airport does a secondary inspection. If that person is bringing anything that is not permitted under the BAHA regulations, such as raw meat and pork and the person doesn’t have a BAHA import permit, then the item is confiscated.

However, the process slows down the passage out of the airport and that is what BAHA is trying to speed up without compromising the surveillance.

“There’s been a lot of complaints from the public that we are searching their stuff, that we are taking it away at the airport, and all we are doing is that we are trying to protect agricultural health and human health here in Belize,” Hernan Zetina said.

“The trip allowed us to look at what these countries are doing. We will try to see what we can adopt here in Belize for the process to flow more smoothly and for the passengers arriving in Belize to have a very good experience.”

Zetina said that at this point BAHA has one dog and one x-ray machine.

“We already have one canine along with a dog handler that works certain days of the week,” Hernan Zetina said. “We also have a small x-ray machine, but I understand that by the end of this month we are getting two bigger x-ray machines to avoid the congestion when people reach Belize. We are hoping that by the middle of December or earlier than that the two x-ray machines might be operational.”


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