AMID THE avian flu outbreak, Malacañang urged Tuesday the Department of Agriculture (DA) and its attached agency Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to expedite the culling of 200,000 fowls in Pampanga province for the fast recovery of the poultry industry.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the military can augment additional troops to speed up the clearing of six poultry farms affected by avian flu in Pampanga's San Luis town.

"We sympathize with the plight of our farmers and other sectors in the poultry industry, which are burdened by the drastic measures needed to contain and eradicate our first ever avian flu outbreak," Abella said in a press conference.

"Despite their lack of personnel, we urge DA and BAI (Bureau of Animal Industry) to expedite the various clearing to minimize the losses and hasten the recovery of the poultry industry," he added.

The DA is now in the process of culling around 200,000 poultry heads, including chicken, within San Luis town to avert the possible spread of the virus.

Last Friday, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol confirmed the outbreak of bird flu in Pampanga, the first case recorded in the country that placed the province under a state of calamity.

The BAI and the University of the Philippines - Los Baños found that close to 40,000 birds have died from avian influenza subtype H5.

On Monday, Abella assured the public that the avian flu strain is not harmful to humans.

"Our first concern is the safety of our consumers and citizens. So far, there is no indication that this strain of avian flu is harmful to humans, but we will continue to validate this and take all precautions needed," he said. (SunStar Philippines)