By Ben Rosario
A congressman representing the farmers’ sector on Thursday called for a total ban on pork importation and collection of food leftover as hog feed as well as other harsher measures to stop the entry of African swine fever (ASF) in the country.
Ang Magsasaka Partylist Rep. Argel Cabatbat, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, made the proposal as he aired strong suspicion that smuggling of pork products could be the culprit in the current ASF outbreak in several provinces, including Rizal and Bulacan.
“Ang smuggling ay matagal nang problema, pinai-imbestigahan natin ito (Smuggling has long been a problem. We are having it investigated),” Cabatbat stated during the Partylist Forum Thursday.
He filed House Resolution No. 336 directing the House Committee on Agriculture and Food to look into the status of the proliferation of ASF and assess its adverse impact on the swine industry.
The resolution also urges the House panel to look into pork smuggling activities at the Bureau of Customs, noting that the source of smuggled products could be from countries already struggling against the effects of ASF.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has reported ASF outbreaks in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea, Mongolia, Laos, and Myanmar.
Cabatbat admitted that another source of the virus could be canned meat products and the use of food leftovers as feed for pigs.
“Humans can become carriers of the virus, and the virus can also survive even if the meat has been processed or canned,” he noted.
Since the government is finding difficulty in pinpointing the source of the ASF virus, Cabatbat said a total ban on the importation of meat should be considered.
Citing official figures, Cabatbat said the P260-billion hog industry is composed of 12.7 million swine in the country.
He said the fatality rate for pigs, warthogs, and boars infected with ASF is 100 percent.