The Philippines has just lost its status as the only Asian country free of the dreaded avian flu after an outbreak in San Luis, Pampanga last week. Authorities now must quickly act to contain the spread of the virus and erase the stigma that leads people to avoid eating Philippine chicken and scares foreign tourists, among other things.
The government so far is addressing the bird flu outbreak with dispatch, with Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella treating it as “no small calamity.” The local poultry industry, indeed, is at risk considering that many small raisers depend on chicken sales for their livelihood.
Stopping the spread of the avian flu and containing it within the Pampanga town will need the cooperation of several parties, including the local government, Department of Agriculture and even the military. Culling hundreds of thousands of birds in San Luis and within the seven-kilometer radius control area, for one, will require a great number of personnel.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol should be on top of the situation and be given the budget to do his job. He has sought an initial budget of P100 million to help farmers affected by the bird flu outbreak in Pampanga. Thirty- six farms with 600,000 fowls have been covered by the depopulation process.
Authorities are aware that any delay in the culling process will result in the rapid spread of the virus to nearby towns. The virus can easily infect poultry farms in other Luzon provinces and create an epidemic that could ruin the country’s poultry sector.
Strict quarantine measures, meanwhile, should be enforced given the porous borders of the infected Pampanga town. The government did the right thing when it ordered a temporary ban on the movement of live domestic and wild birds and their products from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao.
The bird flu outbreak is one calamity that the Philippines should quickly address. Small poultry growers outside the Pampanga town can easily lose their livelihood if the virus is not eradicated. Containing the virus is a matter of life and death for the sector.