For consumer advocacy group leader, DA chief Dar was 'a big mistake'

The leader of a science-inclined consumer advocacy group has called Secretary William Dar's stint at the Department of Agriculture (DA) under the current administration as 'a big mistake", particularly when it comes to handling the African Swine Fever (ASF) scourge.

AGHAM President Angelo Palmones (Photo from AGHAM Facebook page)

"Secretary William Dar is a big mistake in DA," said Angelo Palmones, president of the Alyansa ng mga Grupong Haligi ng Agham at Teknolohiya Para sa Mamamayan (AGHAM).

"Very frustrating that he failed to stop the spread of ASF because of wrong policies and priorities. Noong 2019 pa ang ASF sa bansa (ASF has been in the country since 2019)," Palmones pointed out.

"I really don’t understand. What is DA’s priority? Research for vaccine against ASF is laudable. But it’s more expensive and would require a long, long time to develop. The hog industry is almost dead!" he reckoned.

ASF practically has a 100 percent kill rate with infected hogs.

There is currently no vaccine for it, leaving mass slaughter or culling as the only option once the disease is detected even in just a few hogs. This eliminates the further spread of ASF.

Palmones opined that the agriculture department should look to implement measures that would immediately help curb ASF presence in the country, such as ensuring that first border inspections are observed.

"The DA must fasttrack the construction of facilities to fully implement the first border protocol. This will ensure the limiting, or even stoppage of the entry of other viruses that will threaten our livestock industry," he said.

"President Duterte gave more than P500 million in 2019 to put up the necessary quarantine facilities in major entry ports of the country. The DA is just about to start the bidding!" noted Palmones, a former congressman.

On May 10, the President signed Proclamation No. 1143, declaring a state of calamity throughout the Philippines due to the ASF outbreak. The state of calamity will last one year.

Figures for DA showed that ASF has spread to 12 regions, 46 provinces, 502 cities and municipalities, and 2,652 barangays in the country. The toll has reached three million heads of pigs, which has caused pork prices in the metropolis to skyrocket. (Ellson A. Quismorio).