The government should open up a new front in the contingency preparations for African swine flu to help the people in the P280-billion-a-year industry if tests prove that the deadly disease is already here, an official said Thursday.
“I think that a study group should be convened to assess the financial fallout in the event of a worst-case scenario,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.
“Next to rice, the hog industry is the biggest in agriculture in terms of value. It is also the eighth biggest in the world.
While the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health protocols to contain the diseases “are in place and have been rehearsed, how to mitigate the financial disaster is, I think, an unexplored area. We must be ahead of the curve.”
Recto said readying an assistance package for the hundreds of thousands of people dependent on the local hog industry “is beyond the mandate” of the Agriculture department.
“Of all the powers of the DA secretary, the power to appropriate or to release allotments is not one of them,” Recto said.
“It is something that is discussed in the highest levels of government, in the Cabinet, in both houses of Congress, more so if it requires a huge amount of money to bridge financing,” Recto said.
He said the hog industry was a pillar of the Philippine economy, with millions earning a living on the swine supply chain.
With annual production nearing 2.3 metric tons, he said, it is the eighth biggest in the world by volume.
Any production disruption would be felt on Filipino dining tables, Recto said.
“Remember, this is the land of lechon, the national fiesta food; adobo, the national comfort food; sisig is one of the pambansang pulutans; and longganisa and tocino are the breakfast of champions.”
Four years ago, Filipino families were already buying P101 billion worth of fresh pork alone.
“Kung decreasing ang fish catch natin, at mahal na rin ang maraming isdang dagat, tapos mawawala pa ang pork”•kailangan talaga may turnaround plan na nakahanda para sa industriya, para makabangon kaagad sila,” Recto said.
"Kung magiging disaster ito, the hog industry deserves calamity aid," he said.