How Lipa City, Batangas became ASF-free

Published November 12, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Yvette Tan


Yvette Tan

Last July 8, 2021, the Department of Agriculture declared Lipa City ASF (African Swine Fever)-free. Lipa was one of six Batangas cities considered “recovered from ASF.” The others are San Jose, Malvar, Rosario, Taysan, and Nasugbu.

Through concentrated efforts between hog farmers and the local government, Lipa City not only managed to keep ASF to a minimum within their borders, but managed to eradicate it altogether for now.

Pre-ASF, the hog population of Lipa City was an estimated 200,000 heads, with 40 percent from backyard and smallholder farmers and the rest from commercial farms. This number has decreased by 40 percent since July 2020.

African Swine Fever, or ASF, is a highly contagious disease that affects swine. It was first reported in the Philippines in July 2019, and has since decimated the hog population of Luzon. But in Lipa, preparations to combat this dreaded disease started even before it was reported on Philippine shores. This included quick response teams, animal quarantine checkpoints, barangay level ASF awareness seminars and the organization of an ASF Task Force by September 2019.

The City registered its first confirmed case from a commercial breeding farm on July 7, 2020, and as of this editor’s interview with Lipa City Veterinarian Dr. Samuel P. Comia, registered its last confirmed case on Dec. 23 of the same year, this time from a backyard smallholder farm, with a total of 14 barangays affected within that time span. Eleven of the 14 barangays were locally declared ASF-free on May 17, 2021 and as mentioned above, the whole city was declared ASF-free two months later.

The endeavor to prevent, contain, and eradicate ASF may sound easy now that it has been achieved but in actuality, it was not without its challenges. First, the LGU had to gain the trust of hog farmers. Part of this involved assuring growers that reporting ASF infections would not mean a loss of profit. There were other challenges to overcome, including the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Despite Lipa City being declared ASF-free, Dr. Comia emphasizes that this is no reason for the industry to let its guard down. “We believe that ASF cannot be eradicated at this point in time since vaccine development is at its clinical trial currently,” he said.

The veterinarian called for diligence, cooperation, and concentrated effort in the prevention, containment, and eradication of ASF on a nationwide scale. “Vigilance in controlling and eventually eradicating ASF is of enormous importance since pork forms a big chunk of our daily protein source. The contribution of the pig industry to the GDP is a valuable indicator of our economic progress,” he said.