PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has allowed the agriculture department to use his office’s contingency fund in addressing the spread of African swine fever (ASF).
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the fund will be used as assistance to hog raisers and for the designation of cold storage areas for “100 percent monitoring” of the entry of meat products in the ports of Manila, Subic, Batangas, Cebu and Davao.
The Philippines, the world’s 10th largest consumer of pork and 7th biggest importer, has banned the entry of pork from countries affected with the hog disease including China, which it earlier said was responsible for the spread of ASF in the country.
The outbreak has cost the local hog industry P1 billion in “opportunity losses” each month, the agency earlier said.
While not harmful to humans, ASF is fatal to pigs and some 7,000 hogs have been killed in the Philippines to prevent its spread.
Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan stressed that all sectors in the hog industry must cooperate with the Department of Agriculture (DA) as it implements measures to prevent the spread of the African swine fever.
On reports of oversupply of pork in the country, Pangilinan suggested to suspend pork importation and to start buying local. “This will be a big boost to local hog-raisers, many of whom are also farmers seeking to increase their income through hog-raising. We must explore all possible means to help our backyard hog raisers as they bear the brunt of losing their source of income,” he said.
Pangilinan also urged an immediate investigation into the smuggled pork from China that caused this outbreak.
“Someone must be held accountable over these illegal shipments,” he said. “Now that we have confirmed and identified the cause of the ASF outbreak in the Philippines, it is important more than ever to escalate our efforts to curb its spread.”
Pangilinan said all concerned sectors must abide by the following protocols:
1. Surveillance and quick response
“Immediately report to the DA if any pigs in the area are showing any symptoms of ASF, as the DA initiates quick response and tightens its surveillance over affected areas while keeping a close eye on neighboring barangays,” said the former food security secretary.
2. Quarantine checkpoints
“To stop the spread of ASF, establish quarantine checkpoints in affected barangays to ensure that affected pig or pork products remain in the area,” Pangilinan said.
“Cooperate with DA-led culling of infected pigs and ensure that proper procedures are followed in the disposing of culled pigs,” the senator said. “May balita tayo na nililibing sa tabing-ilog ang mga infected na baboy. Malaki ang posibilidad na kumalat kung mababaw ang pinaglibingan at dadalhin din ng daloy ng ilog ang dugo ng mga infected na baboy sa mga karatig-barangay.”
Pangilinan also stressed that the participation of media is vital, as they are instrumental in spreading correct information over this outbreak and lessen the public’s distrust of uninfected pork products.
He recalled his stint as Presidential Assistant for Agricultural Modernization in 2014-2015, when he too faced the agricultural outbreak cocolisap that affected over 4.5 million coconut trees in 57 hotspots nationwide.
“We immediately implemented science-based protocols in partnership with the University of the Philippines Los Baños and a multi-government task force. In one year, we were able to lower the number of infected trees to just half a million, with 57 hotspots down to one,” Pangilinan said.
“Our multi-sectoral, science-based cocolisap action was such that the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) mission described it as ‘commendable’. This is proof that when we act swiftly and as one, we will be able to effectively curb any outbreak,” he added.
Sen. Win Gatchalian urges the Department of Education to heighten precautionary measures and prevent students’ consumption of African swine fever -positive pork products.
Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, calls for DepEd’s vigilance following reports that processed pork from China tested positive for ASF. The Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) also confirmed that skinless longganisa and hotdog from Mekeni tested positive for ASF.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar has reported that 13 ASF outbreaks were confirmed in four provinces: Pangasinan, Pampanga, Bulacan and Rizal. This resulted in more than 20,000 hogs culled to contain the virus. A third or more than 6,600 of these pigs were infected with ASF while the rest were culled as part of government control measures.
Gatchalian noted that while ASF does not pose a threat to human health, schools should raise awareness and exhaust all sanitary measures to protect students from ASF-positive products.
With Marlon Purificacion