State of emergency vs. ASF will not work – farmers

Published March 22, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

A group of farmers rejected the Department of Agriculture’s proposal to Malacanang to declare a state of emergency to stop the continuing destruction of African Swine Fever (ASF) on the local hogs industry.

In a statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) doubted the DA’s proposal and warned of “potential mishandling” of contingency and quick response funds.

The DA did not reply to request for comment on the KMP statement.

KMP questioned the DA’s ulterior motive behind its proposal. “DA wants to access all funds available — the contingency fund and quick response fund. However, none of these are reaching local hog raisers and producers, especially backyard hog farmers who have yet to receive indemnification from the government,” KMP chairperson emeritus Rafael Mariano said.

Mariano said that hog raisers need direct support, not loans, which is one of the ASF-related assistance the DA is currently distributing.  

Department of Agriculture (MANILA BULLETIN)
Department of Agriculture (MANILA BULLETIN)

To date, the ASF menace also affected close to 4.7 million hogs in the Philippines, causing shortage in pork supply in the National Capital Region. The ASF already spread to 12 regions, 40 provinces, 466 cities and municipalities, and 2,425 barangays in the country.

ASF hit the country in 2019 and became a lingering problem since then. As of January this year, the country’s total local swine inventory declined by 24.1 percent.

Backyard farms’ inventory, which accounts for 71 percent of hogs raised, decreased by 13.3 percent, while the population in commercial farms dropped by 41.8 percent.

Last week, the DA, upon the recommendation of the Senate, already submitted to Malacañang a draft proclamation seeking to put the entire Philippines under a state of emergency due to ASF outbreaks, which have been pushing meat prices, especially pork, higher.

Based on DA’s draft proclamation, which now await President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature, ASF already resulted in the death and culling of three million hogs nationwide.

The draft proclamation came days after the DA was exposed for allegedly allowing some of its employees to illegally earn billions of money from a kickback scheme or the so-called “tongpats” in the granting for permits for pork importation.

Aside from the proclamation of a state of emergency, the DA hopes to address the ASF situation and rising meat prices by tripling pork imports and lowering import tariff, which is feared to only increase the income of ‘tongpats’ scheme perpetrators.

For his part, Mariano said if only the DA and the government’s Task Group on Food Security exercise political will, they can effectively capacitate national agencies and local government units (LGUs) to work together and stop the spread of ASF.

“DA is mishandling the ASF problem and giving only skewed solutions — from the 1-7-10 containment and culling protocols, price ceiling on pork prices, to the unpopular proposal to increase importation volume and lower tariffs. Strong political will and not a state of emergency is needed to address the ASF. The local hog problem cannot be solved with hogging of funds and budget by the DA,” said the former Agrarian Reform Secretary.

Mariano also pointed out how the Duterte administration even slashed the budget of the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) from P480.6 million in 2019, when ASF hit the country, to only P413.4 million in 2020.

For this year, the NMIS budget was increased slightly to P427.9 million.