QC set to cal ASF-infected pigs

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on Friday confirmed that the first eight blood samples submitted from hogs in barangays Payatas and Bagong Silangan in District 2 have tested positive for African swine fever.

QC set to cal ASF-infected pigs
SAFE AND SOUND. Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte (4th from left), Barangay officials as well as major stakeholders in the suckling pig business in Laloma, Quezon City, known by the moniker as lechon capital of the Philippines, lead Friday in partaking roasted suckling pigs to show that Laloma is free from the dreaded African Swine Flu. Lino Santos
READ: ASF outbreak contained in four areas, Agri chief says

In a GMA-7 television interview, Belmonte said the Department of Agriculture has given her the green light to cull other infected pigs.

A total of 45 blood samples have been submitted to the Bureau of Animal Industry but the results for the remaining have yet to be released.

Belmonte identified “kanin-baboy” as the possible culprit behind the ASF cases in the city.

She ordered a tightening in the process of collection and disposal of food waste from establishments since these could be the main source of ASF contaminated meats that ended up as swill feed or “kanin-baboy” to backyard hog raisers.

“This is the no. 1 source of possible ASF,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino. “Airline food or food from hotels, they use imported pork, which could be infected. We have to make sure they are not fed to our hogs.”

District 2 Councilor Winston Castelo said the city mayor was just doing her job when she announced the presence of the ASF in Bagong Silangan.

“The health of the people is of paramount importance so nobody can blame the mayor if she was looking after her constituents,” he said.

Belmonte met Friday with the backyard raisers in the two villages and barangay executive Manny Guarin, who also raises about 300 pigs, about the culling as part of the 1-7-10 protocol.

Under the protocol, quarantine checkpoints are set up in areas within a one-kilometer radius of suspected farms—monitoring the movement of live pigs, pork, and pork products.

Within a seven-kilometer radius, authorities conduct surveillance and limit animal movement.

Farm owners within the 10-kilometer radius are mandated to report any disease to the DA.

Belmonte said a budget of P10 million has been allotted for financial assistance to ASF-affected areas.

She encouraged all those from the affected barangays to surrender their pigs before the budget runs out and to prevent the spread of ASF to other areas.

“I was surprised to know that there are backyard hog-raising when I assumed office. I have asked the city veterinarian to immediately phase out backyard hog-raising. But the raisers requested us to give them six months to do so,” she said.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said he had released a mass culling order of pigs in the two barangays in Quezon City after showed the presence of ASF.

Dar said blood samples from the farms tested positive for ASF and immediately set the 1-7-10 protocol in motion.

The outbreak has spread from the province of Rizal to Barangay Payatas and Barangay Silangan in Quezon City, the department said.

The BAI, acting on direct orders from the Agriculture secretary, started its depopulation campaign on Sept. 18, Wednesday.

The bureau had since started to quarantine the areas and those farms near the affected sites and immediately set out to cull pigs.

There had been 7,416 confirmed ASF cases in the Philippines, as of the end of August 2019.

The cases represented six deaths for every 10,000 pigs of the country’s total swine population, which stood at 12.7 million, as of July 2019, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Dar said the department and other government agencies and the private sector are doing their utmost to effectively manage, control, and contain the threat of ASF—to protect the industry and to ensure the health of consumers.

The department earmarked P78 million as an emergency fund for biosecurity and quarantine operations.

The National ASF Task Force was set to convene to flesh out inter-agency coordination, in partnership with concerned local government units and the private sector.

ASF is a swine disease capable of evolving into a full-blown epidemic if not contained.

Meat processors warned of fewer pork products during the coming holidays, especially Christmas hams.

The industry, however, assured consumers that locally-produced hams, although not in abundance as in previous years, will remain safe for public consumption.

At a news conference on Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City, Rex Agarrado, Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. spokesperson, said while the ASF virus does not pose a risk to public health, the group is still giving the guaranty that their pork-based products are “wholesome” and safe for human consumption.

He said they use raw meat, “mostly from ASF-free countries, such as from Spain or France, that could never be a carrier of the ASF virus.

He, however, lamented about the decision of the local governments of Cebu and Bohol to ban the entry of hogs and pork products from Luzon to prevent a possible outbreak of ASF in the Visayas.

READ: Pampanga sets ban to stay ASF-free

Jerome Ong, PAMPI vice president and CDO Foodsphere Inc. owner, said: “the provincial government of Cebu has pulled out our products from the supermarkets’ shelves since Thursday.”

“We don’t even have a copy of that [ban],” he told reporters.

Agarrado said several processors of branded meat products in the market have already scaled down their production over uncertainty in the business environment caused by the “unfounded” policies of some local government units.

“The ban on processed pork-based products is a mistaken belief that they are carriers of the dreaded ASF virus,” he added.

He appealed to the departments of Health, Trade and Industry, Interior and Local Government, and Agriculture “to get their acts together” to stop the restriction.

He said he fears that other local governments may follow suit when Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap issued Executive Order No. 7 last Aug. 20 specifying that the ban covers pork and pork-related products “in whatever form or quantity... including those which are purely for consumption purposes only” for a period of 100 days.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia also issued a 100-day ban on the entry of pork and pork products from other places to safeguard the province’s P10-billion hog industry.

Bohol and Cebu account for 10 percent to 15 percent of the total national sales of processed meat products, Ong said.

Among PAMPI’s members are Swift Foods Philippines, CDO Foodsphere Inc., Pampanga’s Best and R. Lapid’s Chicharon.

In a statement, PAMPI president Feliex Tiukinhoy Jr. said the national economy would be “seriously damaged” should LGUs persist in imposing an “unnecessary and unwarranted ban” on the movement, distribution, and sale of processed meats and pork-based products, in their respective jurisdictions.”

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, meanwhile, said it would support the government’s all-out campaign against ASF, including an information campaign on the prohibition of pork imports. Just recently, authorities at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga confiscated balikbayan boxes containing canned goods from a newly arrived Filipino worker from Hong Kong. In Manila, the Customs office at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport has already confiscated 30,652 kilos of meat and meat products.

READ: Hog raisers need P26 billion to contain ASF

Topics: Joy Belmonte , African swine fever , Department of Agriculture , Winston Castelo
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