Uriel C. Quilinguing .
SINCE Saturday last week, more than 2,000 pigs in Rodriquez town, Rizal have been quarantined in the midst of reported deaths of some 600 others that were backyard raised in barangays Macabud, San Isidro and San Jose.
Meat specimens and blood samples were taken from the carcasses by Bureau of Animal Industry personnel for laboratory testing in the country and abroad to ascertain whether these massive deaths were due to the dreaded African swine fever virus.
Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, who assumed the post from now Mindanao Development Authority chairperson Emmanuel Piñol less than a month ago, neither confirmed nor denied whether the deaths were due to ASF.
Here in Northern Mindanao where raising swine in piggeries and backyards is a P7.2-billion industry, Dar’s frontline workers organized the Livestock Regulatory Updates and African Swine Fever fora in Cagayan de Oro for the industry stakeholders in Bukidnon’s three congressional districts.
Northern Mindanao Hog Association president Benjamin C. Albarece, who was engaged in the fora, said about 56,000 swine growers and Norminhog members would be affected even by just a single ASF case.
Knowing the enormous damage the ASF could inflict on the region’s swine industry, Albarece with Department of Agriculture 10’s regulatory division chief Juliet B. Araos brought in Dr. Romualdo Buenviaje Jr., the senior swine specialist of San Miguel Corp. Animal Health in the gathering as resource speaker.
Buenviaje was emphatic in his multi-media presentation saying that African swine fever is “a deadly enemy is wreaking havoc” in Asian countries that surround the Philippines. Because of this, Philippines has tightened her quarantine protocols and bio security. Sale of disinfectants, he said, increased remarkably since last year.
He said every Filipino must be scared by the threats the ASF pose because it can be economically devastating. But information on it must be handled well because irresponsible statements could result in unwarranted public panic.
ASF, he said, is highly contagious and the virus could result to massive deaths and wipe out the entire swine industry.
Aside from strict observance of protocols in farms, particularly in places where pigs are raised, the situation calls for a top-to-bottom decisive actions if keeping the country ASF-free is desired.
There has been a ban on imports of pork and pork-related products, either frozen or canned from ASF-infected places, and compliance on this must be closely monitored. The Food and Drugs Administration issued the ban on importation, distribution and sale from 20 countries in its July 30 advisory and these include China, Germany, Hong Kong, North Korea, Russia, among others.
One of these could be a temporary travel ban on countries with ASF cases. Those coming in from these countries must be isolated and quarantined since humans are possible hosts of the virus that causes ASF.
It is not enough that human and food wastes from planes and sea crafts from countries with ASF must be disposed properly, as already been a standard operating procedure due to ASF virus.
Filipinos’ propensity of raising pigs within their backyard which often end up slaughtering them without mandatory meat inspections must be discouraged.
Selling meat among neighbors either at relatively low prices or even on credit has been traditionally practiced, much more during feast celebrations. Barangay officials must regulate this practice and such must be reported to the local veterinary office or to the National Meat Inspection Office representative.
Securing the country’s P260-billion pork industry free from ASF means unlocking vast potentials for swine growers to go beyond the archipelagic borders. For now, there’s huge pork exports market particularly in countries whose pig industry drastically collapsed due to the ASF.
By then, Dar’s wish of seeing the day when farming and fishing sector is prosperous is realized. But the 66-year old former director general of India-based International Crops Research for Semi-Arid Tropics—a consortium of Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, has to undergo the litmus test of getting through with the ASF unscathed.
(Uriel C. Quilinguing is a former Cagayan de Oro Press Club president. He was an editor in chief of this paper. For reactions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.)