GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Swine producers in the southern Philippines urged the national government to make Mindanao a separate bio-security region in an effort to push anew the averted shipment of cut pork products abroad, it was gathered Wednesday.

The country's pilot foreign foray for frozen pork meat products was supposed to gain ground in December 2008 but obstructed by the detection of the ebola reston virus in several hog farms in Luzon.

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Sun.Star obtained documents on Wednesday that showed the clamor to separate Mindanao from Luzon and Visayas in terms of bio-security jurisdiction to further pave the way for the island's swine industry growth.

"The immediate need to regionalize Mindanao as a separate bio-security region will deliver a great impact to Mindanao's key industries and sectors. The Mindanao pork producers are looking forward [that it be granted] along with the positive feedback of Singapore in resuming the Philippine-Singapore pork trade," said Emilio V. Escobillo Jr., chair of the South Cotabato Swine Producers Association (Socospa).

He noted that Mindanao, declared by the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) or World Organization for Animal Health, as free from the foot-and-mouth disease, supplies most of Metro Manila's monthly pork consumption and has been recognized by Singapore as a source of healthy pork meat.

But the national office of the Department of Agriculture suspended what could have been the country's first international trading of pork meat to Singapore in the wake of the ebola reston discovery in several hogs raised in Luzon in 2008.

In the proposal to establish Mindanao as a separate bio-security region, the Socospa lamented that present reportorial status of Mindanao is taken cared by the Agriculture main office in Manila.

The bio-security regionalization of Mindanao to protect its animal health status shall be separate from the national, Socospa stressed, citing the examples in the United States, Canada and India.

In these countries, states or regions are strategically protected under safety protocols as not to hinder potential market and industry setbacks, it explained.

A government and private organizations-assisted Mindanao Pork Producers Council shall be created to lead the direction in the bio-security regionalization of Mindanao's swine industry that shall follow the standards on Good Animal Husbandry Practices and Farm Inspection System, the group also proposed.

Escobillo asserted that the goal for the immediate implementation of Mindanao's regionalisation "will open new doors of strategic and tangible export markets" for the island that will as well "enable the Philippines to become more competitive in the world market."

Initiatives for the country to enter the foreign pork meat market, through Mindanao, had been in place through the modern facilities set up by Matutum Meat Packing Corporation.

The firm, based in nearby Polomolok, South Cotabato, is the only company in the country cleared by Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority to ship the pork meat products in the island-state.

Earlier, Stephen G. Castillo, Matutum Meat general manager, expressed optimism the Philippines could penetrate other Asian countries if it could enter Singapore's pork meat market.

"Singapore food standards are very strict, serving as barometer to enter other markets in the Asian region," he said.