By Chito Chavez
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on Wednesday started distributing cash assistance to city hog raisers affected by the African swine fever (ASF).
Owners of around 146 pigs culled in Barangay Bagong Silangan are the first recipients of the financial aid earlier promised by Belmonte.
The local government will provide P3,000 and P1,500 financial assistance for every culled pig and piglet, respectively.
“Scholarships and livelihood will also be provided to affected families of illegal hog raisers to help them find new ways to earn a living,” said Belmonte.
“Hindi natin sila maaaring pabayaan, lalo na sa panahong kailangan nila ng tulong mula sa lokal na pamahalaan. Naririto kami para tumulong hanggang muli silang makabangon mula sa problemang ito (We will take care of them, especially in this trying times when the local government’s help is needed. We are here to help until they can recover from their financial woes),” Belmonte said.
Belmonte started culling infected pigs on September 15 in the wake of the ASF scare.
Culled were pigs from Sitio Veterans (Area 5) and Oriole (Area 2) in Barangay Bagong Silangan after blood samples submitted from these areas were confirmed by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to have tested positive for the ASF.
“We went above and beyond DA’s protocol to ensure that the virus won’t spread to nearby areas so I ordered the immediate culling of the pigs,” she added.
Dr, Anamarie Cabel, City Veterinary Office head, said the 1-7-10 protocol requires the culling of infected animals.
As part of the protocol, additional blood samples within the one-kilometer radius of the “ground zero” have been collected and submitted to the BAI for testing.
Belmonte also called on barangay officials within the one-kilometer radius to cooperate by identifying informal backyard hog raisers and assisting the Quezon City Veterinary Office in getting blood samples to be submitted to BAI for testing.
For her part, Cabel called on the hog raisers to immediately inform the City Veterinary Office through 988-4242 loc 8036 in case of sick pigs.
Symptoms of ASF include high fever, nose bleeding, and ear hemorrhage, among others.
She also advised consumers to look for meat inspection certificate from retailers to ensure the meat they are buying is safe.
Fund for ASF
Meanwhile, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Wednesday said the Department of Agriculture (DA) has P1 billion in Quick Response Fund (QRF) that it may use to stop the spread of the ASF.
Angara, chair of the Senate Finance committee, said these funds are lodged under this year’s Calamity Fund and should be used now to implement the DA’s containment protocol to prevent the ASF from further damaging the country’s hog industry.
The senator said the government should now “break the glass of this emergency fund” as the ASF is “by all accounts, a calamity” that threatens a key food source that also adds P280-billion to the economy annually.
“This ASF is by all accounts a calamity. It may not have the dramatic footage that typhoons create, but in terms of damage to livelihood, and the households affected, it is just as damaging,” Angara said.
The lawmaker stressed that preventing the spread of ASF must be done now before it engulfs the entire industry and endangers the jobs of tens of thousands of people.
“If agriculture disasters like pests, droughts, and ASF are rated, the latter has the potential of becoming a high-category calamity,” Angara said.
According to Angara, funding for anti-ASF measures can be sourced from the P20-billion National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF), more commonly known as the Calamity Fund. Under this fund, the DA is assigned P1 billion in QRF, “which by their nature, should have been forward-deployed to these agencies.”
Angara noted that it was only on September 10 that the Department of Budget and Managed (DBM) released P82.5 million to the DA to carry out measures to “arrest and abate” the spread of ASF. Thirty-five (35) percent of the amount or P32 million will be spent to boost security-screening measures at international airports. Another P28 million will go to laboratory testing of meat and meat products.
“It is good that we’re strengthening our quarantine curtains, but what we lack are funds to fight ASF on the ground, lalo na ngayon na fully mobilized na ang mga local governments (especially now that local government units are fully mobilized). In the future, ito siguro ang mangangailangan ng pondo (They will need these funds in the future),” he said.
Angara said it is high time that both houses of Congress and the Executive branch look into proposals on how to strengthen the country’s food biosecurity and food security measures. (With a report from Hannah L. Torregoza)