By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Different agriculture groups, including Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) and United Broiler Raisers Association, expressed their fear about the Department of Agriculture (DA) losing momentum on its implementation of African Swine Fever (ASF) quarantine protocols with its forthcoming transition in leadership.
With the deadly pig disease spreading fast in neighboring countries, this is a crucial time for the P260-billion hog industry, they said, and the last thing the DA needs is a leader who is in transition.
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday that he already began scouting for a replacement for Piñol, who filed his resignation last month and will be transferred to Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) as the new chair.
Yet to make a final decision, Duterte said he wants a military man to replace Piñol.
“It is our understanding that you have decided to assign Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to another post involving the development in Mindanao. We fully realize that finding someone who has your trust requires some time. We only humbly ask that you take into consideration the very serious threat of the ASF entering our shores,” the groups said in their joint letter to Duterte.
The ASF is now a global pandemic that is wrecking havoc in the livelihoods of millions of hog raisers across the globe, mostly China which has already culled more than a million pigs to prevent the spread of the disease.
Other countries that were already hit by ASF are Belgium, Poland, Hong Kong, Laos, Vietnam, Zambia, South Africa, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Mongolia, Moldova, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine.
“It is a situation that urgently needs a leadership that is not in transition at the Department of Agriculture since the secretary will be at the helm in directing all our efforts in ensuring that the country remains ASF-free,” the groups said.
Aside from SINAG and UBRA, the joint letter to Duterte included signatories from Philippine Veterinary Medical Association, Pest Management Council of the Philippines, and Philippine College of Swine Practitioners.
Eleven months since the reported spread of the ASF, the groups now lament the fact that the government agencies that are involved in the quarantine, monitoring and surveillance of international cargos, international passengers and imported products remain “ill-informed” on the contingency measures that should have been in place for the past months.
Similarly, they believe that a number of local government units (LGUs) that should have long been briefed in putting up counter-ASF measures in their localities are still unaware of ASF.
It was just last month when more than 600 kilos of pork products from Belgium and Poland — two countries infected by ASF since last year — have entered the country legally last week through the Cebu port.
While it was confiscated, SINAG Executive Director Jayson Cainglet said at that time that if these products were able to enter the country with permits and even made it through the initial quarantine inspection at Cebu Port, it’s highly possible that more pork products from ASF-hit countries have already entered the Philippines through other ports.