By Chino Leyco
The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday clarified that the outbreak of the African swine fever (ASF) is not yet on a nationwide scale as the serious viral disease, which may sharply reduce pig herds, is only contagious in two Luzon provinces.
Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the deadly swine virus is only considered an outbreak in several areas of Rizal and Bulacan, but not in the entire country.
Dar explained the rapidly developing disease is only being managed, contained, and controlled in Barangay Pritil, Guiguinto, Bulacan, and in several barangays in Rodriguez, San Mateo, and Antipolo, Rizal.
“The African swine fever episodes in several areas in Bulacan and Rizal may be considered an outbreak but not an epidemic,” a DA statement, quoting Dar, stated.
Dar issued the clarification after several media reports stated that ASF has already been officially declared a nationwide outbreak by the Bureau of Animal Industry.
He appealed to the public not to ignite fears by releasing unverified and unvalidated reports that could create an irreversible damage to the country’s P260-billion swine industry.
“Around two-thirds or 65 percent of the industry is contributed by small backyard raisers,” Dar said, adding the swine sector provides livelihood to millions of Filipino families.
Dar said that 7,416 pigs in the one-kilometer radius in ASF areas in Rizal and Bulacan have already been depopulated, following the 1-7-10 protocol of the DA to manage, contain, and control the spread of the disease.
For instance, one ASF-infected slaughterhouse in Barangay Gitnang Bayan 1, San Mateo, Rizal, has already been closed, cleaned, and disinfected.
Continuous strict surveillance is being conducted in areas near ASF-infected barangays in Rizal and Bulacan.
Dar assured the public that the incident will not affect the supply and prices of pork in the market, stressing that the ASF is confined and specific in certain areas only and not in the entire country.
The DA, in partnership with the local government units, the private sector, Philippine National Police and the military, enhanced its monitoring activities and imposed stricter biosecurity and quarantine measures to contain the spread of ASF in other areas.
Pork still safe – Palace
As this developed, Malacañang expressed confidence that it is still safe to consume pork products despite the announcement of the Quezon City government that 11 dead pigs in Barangay Bagong Silangan tested positive for the African swine fever.
Panelo stated this after the DA refuted the announcement of Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte about the ASF cases, saying they should have left the announcement to the Agriculture department.
In his Monday press briefing, Panelo said that the situation was still under control and that it was still safe to eat pork.
“The DA said it is [safe to eat pork], and so it is,” Panelo added.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Agriculture spokesperson Noel Reyes said the DA has already refuted the Quezon City government announcement.
“Secretary Dar called up Mayor Belmonte and told her that the testing of pigs for ASF is not that short. It needs to be validated. Meaning, even their city veterinarian was very trigger happy,” he said.
50 pigs culled in Quezon City
Notwithstanding the DA clarification, the Quezon City government culled on Monday some 50 hogs within the one-kilometer radius of Barangay Bagong Silangan despite the resistance of owners to prevent the spread of the dreaded disease.
Belmonte also ordered the dismantling of illegal piggeries in the city, targeting backyard hog raisers.
The lady mayor said drastic measures are necessary in the ASF-afflicted areas whether the pigs have weak or strong strains of the swine disease.
“We cannot just allow na may virus tayo here in the city (We cannot just allow to have this virus in the city),” Belmonte said.
Belmonte also formed teams that will strictly monitor the city’s markets to allay public fears. (With a report from Argyll B. Geducos and Chito A. Chavez)