By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other concerned agencies to act faster in containing the spread of the African swine fever (ASF) in the country.
Zubiri made the appeal as he raised concern over the declaration of ASF outbreak in some barangays in Rizal and Bulacan provinces.
“Ako po ay lubos na nababahala sa pagpasok ng African Swine Fever sa ating bansa bagamat hindi pa natutukoy kung anong strain ang tumama sa ating swine population (I am very much worried about the entry of the ASF in our country although we have yet to determine what strain hit our swine population),” Zubiri said in a statement.
The senator took to task the DA as he recalled warning officials of the agency about the possible spread of the hog disease when he presided the hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food on the contingency plans against the entry and spread of ASF in the Philippines last March 20.
Zubiri had recommended the implementation of a temporary total ban on pork importation to increase security efforts against ASF.
“I told you so, as early as March of this year, that we should impose a total ban of pork importation from abroad,” he said on Monday.
“On March 20 of this year I led the committee hearing…wherein I raised that the damage and economic losses caused by the recent water crisis in some parts of Metro Manila would be incomparable to the havoc and economic losses the ASF could bring into the whole country if ever this epidemic will reach our shores,” he said in mixed Filipino and English.
He also recalled the DA, other agencies and leaders of the hog industry agreeing that security in airports and sea ports should me more stringent to avoid tue entry of ASF.
“Subalit nakapasok pa rin sa bansa ang ASF. Gusto ko pong malaman ano po ang nangyari? Naging maluwag ba tayo sa pagbabantay?” Zubiri asked.
(But ASF still made its way into the country. I wanted to know what happened? Were we lax in watching out of ASF?)
Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier said that they had put two other areas in Central Luzon under quarantine due to suspected cases of ASF. He did not identify these areas.
Aside from the DA, Zubiri said the Bureau of Customs, airport officials, the National Meat Inspection Service and other concerned agencies should help in preventing the ASF epidemic.
“Let’s save our hog industry especially the backyard raisers,” said Zubiri.
“Ngayong andito na sa bansa ang ASF, nais natin na mas higpitan ng DA at iba pang ahensya ng pamahalaan at ng publiko ang pagbabantay at pag-contain nito upang di na kumalat pa sa ibang probinsya o lugar sa bansa. Kailangan nating paigtingin ang bio-security ng ating mga swine farms,” he added
(Now that ASF is here, we want the DA and other government agencies, as well as the public, to tighten its guard to contain and prevent its spread to other provinces and areas in the country. We should strengthen the biosecurity of our swine farms.)
Zubiri also appealed to the public to avoid bringing into the Philippines pork products from ASF-affected countries.