Temporary ban on entry of mainland pigs sought
posted 19-Oct-2019  ·  
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A local hog raiser alarmed by African Swine Fever now plaguing farms in Luzon has asked the provincial government to temporarily ban the entry of pigs into Catanduanes to avoid causing a possible epidemic in the island.

The request came on the same day Acting Governor Shirley Abundo issued Executive Order No. 42 adopting all guidelines and implementing all measures pertaining to the ASF protection program and constituting the Provincial Task Force.

Virac hog raiser Carla Muñoz-Zafe asked the acting governor to urgently act on the crisis caused by ASF and to impose the ban for now, citing earlier actions by provinces on Negros island, Iloilo, Davao Oriental, Pampanga, Cebu City, and Davao City.

The ban now in place in these areas applies to all live pigs, pork and pork-related products and by-products, whether fresh, frozen, processed or cooked, including but not limited to frozen boar semen, from the entire island of Luzon and the other ASF-affected areas, reports stated.

The executive orders issued by the local governments also prohibited the swill feeding to the backyard hog raisers to prevent the spread of the virus to other swine, as the food scraps may contain infected pork meat.

Zafe’s request was submitted on Sept. 20, 2019, three days after the Provincial Veterinary Office headed by Dr. Jane Rubio held a consultative meeting with local hog raisers and municipal agriculturists to alert them on the emerging ASF disease in the country.

During the first meeting of the provincial ASF task force last Sept. 23 at the governor’s conference room at the capitol, Dr. Rubio said there is no need to issue such a ban since there is no ASF in the Bicol region and the prohibition on the entry of live pigs would not be good for free trade.

With Rubio as team leader, the other members of the ASF task force are Col. Paul Abay of the Catanduanes police, Ferdinand Baltazar of the DENR Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), Ltjg. Harlene Joy Dimla of Philippine Coast Guard, Dir. Uldarico Razal Jr. of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Jerry Beo of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), chapter administrator Reymund Reginaldo of Philippine Red Cross Catanduanes, Myra Balota of Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Primo Eleda of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Edna Bagadiong of Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Arlene Bagadiong of Radyo Pilipinas, Fernan Gianan of Catanduanes Tribune, Ferdinand Brizo of Bicol Peryodiko, Virac Councilor Juan Paulo Sales of Padaba FM, and Rey Boton of Radyo Natin.

Under EO No. 42, the task force is mandated to identify, inspect, determine and initiate the implementation of stamping-out procedures in certain premises as maybe determined; conduct regular surveillance and profiling of swine population and identify priority areas for monitoring and surveillance; ensure the implementation of the quarantine procedures and the regulation and/or prohibition of animal movement; coordinate the conduct of periodic identification of data in hog population and location in respective municipalities; and, ensure adequate awareness of the general public and provide information updates.

Municipal mayors have also been advised to set up their own ASF task forces and to heed the advice of the Department of Agriculture (DA) contained in Administrative Order 04-2019.

ASF is a swine fever virus that causes hemorrhagic fever with 100 percent mortality rates in domestic pigs. It usually causes death within two to 10 days after a pig or swine gets the infection.

Despite a ban on the entry of pork and pork products from 21 countries, the virus managed to infect hog farms in Rizal and Quezon City through swill that included infected pork products from food waste of airlines using the country’s main international airport.

While the virus itself is not harmful to humans, the presence of ASF in an area would result in a sharp reduction of pork consumption in a locality.

Under the present protocol, in case the virus is detected in an area, a quarantine zone is declared within a one-kilometer radius, with all pigs therein culled or killed to prevent the virus from spreading.

Within a seven-kilometer radius, the movement of swine will be controlled while strict monitoring will be implemented within a 10-kilometer radius.

To alert the public and the local backyard raisers, the task force has scheduled a series of consultation meetings with its counterparts at the municipal level as well as barangay captains beginning Sept. 30.

“The consultations should be held as scheduled,” Acting Gov. Abundo told the task force, “so we will not be caught flatfooted in case the ASF virus enters the region.”

The task force, however, ran into a problem: the lack of updated data on the number and location of swine population in the municipalities and the barangays.

Dr. Rubio, admitting that existing data is about five years old, suggested that the municipal task forces and the barangay captains be required to submit the needed inventory on the day the consultation meeting is held in their town.

The organization of hog raisers in every town was also recommended by the ASF task force.

PASFTF members noted that at present, monitoring of the entry of hogs from outside the province is limited to the ports of Virac and San Andres, with none at small ports in Codon, Cabcab and Bislig in San Andres, Bocon in Caramoran, and in Pandan, along with the coastline of Virac.

Along with the weekly shipment of about 30 or more hogs coming from Camarines Sur through the regular ferry trips, a number is believes to be brought in on board motorized bancas and unloaded without the knowledge of the authorities to avoid payment of permit fees.

Aside from footbaths already installed at the Virac airport, similar chemical-laced footbaths will have to be placed at the two main ports of the island.

Dr. Rubio disclosed that slaughterhouses and abattoirs, all of which are not compliant with the standards of the National Meat Inspection System (NMIS), will have to undergo massive disinfection.

She pointed out that at the Virac slaughterhouse, which badly need rehabilitation, butchers are still resorting to floor dressing or cutting up the pig carcass on the dirty cement floor, instead of hanging it up on hooks.

“Mas malinis pa ang pagkatay sa labas kaysa sa loob ng slaughterhouse,” the veterinarian said.

On the other hand, she bared that while quarantine inspectors, hired on a job-order basis, are detailed at the two main ports, it would be difficult to check the origin of meat and meat products from other provinces, especially from Metro Manila.

According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), it has activated quick response teams in Bicol to prevent African Swine Fever (ASF) from entering the region.

“We wish to inform our fellow Bicolanos that so far, Bicol Region is ASF-free,” OIC Executive Regional Director Rodel P. Tornilla announced recently.

“We have activated and mobilized our Regional Quick Response Team to implement complementary measures and intensify surveillance particularly at entry points to assure everyone that no contaminated pig or pork products can enter the region. As of now, there is no reported incidence of massive and abnormal deaths or mortalities of pigs in our region,” Tornilla said during the press interview.

The official stressed that they have already directed personnel manning the animal checkpoints in all entry points in Bicol, particularly the BAI checkpoint in Tabugon, Camarines Norte to be especially on the lookout for persons who will try to bring in live pigs with no proper transport permit and Veterinary Health Certificate. 

Tornilla reminded the public to be vigilant when buying meat and meat products and to always look for the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) seal as a guarantee that the pork products is indeed safe.

 “Meat and processed meat and meat products brought in the region without appropriate NMIS seal and veterinary health certificate are confiscated and properly disposed of. We maintain that meat and meat products with appropriate NMIS seal and veterinary health certificates issued by DA- Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and veterinary offices of LGUs –sold in public markets are safe for human consumption. We assure the public that there is enough supply of pork in the market,” he stressed in a press statement.

The official also advised swine raisers to enhance their biosecurity measures and to promptly report any unusual animal deaths in their areas and to avoid swill feeding. (With a report from PIA 5)

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