CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol clarified that chickens to be given to evacuees from besieged Marawi City are not from Central Luzon, which was recently hit by avian influenza.

This came after a Lanao leader protested against the initiative of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to send chickens to the evacuees and soldiers in Marawi City through the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

"The chickens which will be brought to Marawi do not even come from the farms in Luzon. These are actually Halal-compliant products from Mindanao which will be used as replacement for the supply coming from Luzon which will be shipped to the Davao cold storage of Ana's Breeder Farm," Piñol said.

Piñol said that the chickens coming from Luzon, which will replace the stocks from Davao City, are not newly-slaughtered chickens.

"These are supplies kept in the cold storage which were supposed to be released to the market on a weekly basis. With the bird flu scare, sales of chicken plummeted resulting in overflowing cold storage facilities, thus preventing poultry farms from undertaking their scheduled slaughtering of broiler chicken which have come of age," Piñol added.

This was meant to decongest cold storage facilities now swamped with poultry due to influx of supply after the lifting of the ban on poultry products, the Agriculture department chief said.

"While the story, when not fully explained, would look like the government is giving chickens from bird flu areas to the evacuees in Marawi City, this is totally untrue. The chicken, in an imaginative switching scheme which I designed, which will go to Marawi City are actually slaughtered complying with Halal standards and do not come from Luzon but from Mindanao farms," Piñol said.

Piñol added that even if the chickens were from Central Luzon farms, these are certainly not from areas recently affected by bird flu.

Piñol said that areas in Central Luzon hit by avian influenza have now been cleared of the virus.

President Rodrigo Duterte even personally visited Pampanga in a show of support for the poultry industry adding that Central Luzon poultry products are safe to eat, he said.