House leader bats for moratorium on pork imports

House Deputy Speaker Conrado Estrella on Monday said the mora­torium on the importation of pork products in the country has become inevitable as the local hog industry has started to absorb over P1 billion in losses since the African swine fe­ver (ASF) virus entered the country.

Abono Party-list Rep. Conrado Estrella (FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

Abono Party-list Rep. Conrado Estrella

Estrella, representative of the agriculture-based ABONO Party-list said the moratorium may be lifted as soon as the ASF has been totally eradicated.

“I think it is now time for gov­ernment to impose a moratorium on pork product importation until we have completely cleared our pig farms of the ASF threat. We have to stop the bleeding before it’s too late,” said Estrella, in an interview.

He added that his colleagues in the Lower House support his pro­posal to stop local meat processing firms and distributors from pur­chasing imported pork. “We have sufficient supply to cover the needs of every Filipino. Visayas and Mindanao can be tapped to supply affected meat processors who do not want to source pork from Luzon,” stressed Estrella.

Visayas and Mindanao pig farms are still ASF-free, he added.

Meanwhile, the Committee on Ag­riculture and Food will continue with its probe of the ASF problem.

Earlier, the Bureau of Animal In­dustry disclosed that test results of processed meat samples tested posi­tive for ASF. “Now we ask, where did the ASF virus-infected meat samples come from? Certainly, not from local hog raisers,” Estrella said.

The Pangasinan-based lawmaker lauded moves by various local govern­ment organizations to allay the fears of the public about ASF.

However, notwithstanding the vari­ous campaigns assuring Filipinos that ASF does not have any effect on human health, many continue to doubt the safety of pork.

Estrella has been making the rounds in Region I to help government assure the public about the safety of pork sourced locally. Their group is expected to join a lechon-eating festival today in San Quintin, Pangasinan.

“Many local government units have been conducting lechon-eating festivals in their localities, these are laudable ef­forts to guarantee their constituents that pork is safe to eat,” he said.

2,000 infected pigs

In Brgy. Payatas, Quezon City veterinarian Dr. Ana Marie Cabel said about 2,000 pigs need to be culled and lashed out at stubborn hog raisers in the said village for refusing to cooper­ate with the ASF containment scheme initiated by the city government.

Cabel’s revelation is contrary to the declaration of DA spokesman Noel Reyes who claimed that Quezon City is now ASF cleared.

Cabel explained that only six other ASF-infected barangays in the city have been cleared of the virus and Payatas is not one of them.

The ASF-free barangays include Barangays Tatalon, Roxas, Pasong Tamo, Bagong Silangan, Tandang Sora and Commonwealth.

Cabel said the city government has still half of Barangay Payatas to deal with due to the stubborness of hog raisers to comply with containment procedures.

Hog raisers refused to surrender their pigs despite the city govern­ment’s offer of P3,000 in financial assistance per head.

Hog raiser Leonardo Lopez said full-grown pigs are sold from P8,000 to P9,000 per head.

“This means we stand to lose at least P5,000 per pig if we surrender them. With some piggery owners having 300 pigs in their pig pens huge losses will be incurred. If you multiply 300 pigs to P5,000 this will amount to a whopping P1,500,000,’’ Lopez said.

Cabel said the city veterinary office will come back to Payatas for another round of culling after the All Saint’s Day celebration. (With a report from Chito Chavez)