(First of two parts)
SHOULD an outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) occur in any locale of the Cordillera, what should stakeholders do?
In protecting local hog production, more local government units (LGUs) in the country have been issuing Executive Orders that ban the entry of pork and processed pork products from areas affected by the ASF.
To discuss our topic, we did a little research on this disease and here’s what we gathered from the effort.
ASF is a highly contagious disease that affects domestic and wild pigs of all ages. Infected animals usually experience high fever, anorexia, lethargy, weakness, and recumbency, and most die within 10 days (Center for Food Security and Public Health 2018).
The disease is transmitted directly during contact between infected and susceptible pigs, by consumption of the meat from infected pigs, by the bites of infected tampans (Ornithodoros spp.), and by contact with material or objects (bedding, feed, equipment, clothes and footwear, vehicles) contaminated by virus-containing matter such as blood, feces, urine or saliva from infected pigs.” (Penrith and Vosloo 2009, pg. 59)
ASF was first detected in Africa in 1900 and spread to several countries in Europe and Asia.
So far, there is no vaccine or treatment for ASF. This puts the poor nations like the Philippines in a very difficult situation on how to eradicate the disease, and cope with the crises it brings to livestock growers, consumers, and the economy.
ASF had been active in East Europe and Russia from 2007-2017.
China, the world’s largest producer of pork is suffering from the crises since last year (2018), the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), Iowa State University.
According to the CARD, “the first case of ASF in China was confirmed August 2, 2018, in the northeastern city of Shenyang,” and soon spread fast to crises proportions.
The same ASF strain responsible for the outbreak in China is similar to the Russian strain, the CARD report indicated.
The Philippines has since banned importation of pork and pork-based products from its traditional trading partner countries and territories, known to be suffering from the ASF disease crises, like Belgium, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Hungary, Laos, North Korea, Latvia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia as early as September of last year. The list was expanded to include Myanmar, South Korea, and Serbia.
The interception of two container vans loaded with meat and processed meat products from China at the Port of Manila last Friday, October 25, is not only a violation of the ban but reveals the risks we are facing given our unprotected and long shorelines for smuggling contrabands, not even subjected to quarantine.
That, notwithstanding, the government has so far, put up best efforts in responding to the problem since the country, over the past decades, has yet to set-up a credible quarantine system to safeguard agricultural industries and livelihood against pests and diseases from abroad.
For instance, airports should have footbaths and checkpoint personnel are not well-equipped with equipment, and quarantine procedures and knowledge. Inter-island and land quarantine checkpoints must be set-up, fully manned by qualified personnel and equipped with biosensors that detect pests and diseases in transport.
Meanwhile, to sustain a unified government and industry response to the ASF crises, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año and Agriculture Secretary William Dar met last October 24, and agreed that existing quarantine guidelines on the ban on pork meat and processed products should “remain until further notice.”
On Friday, October 25, the DILG reiterated its order to local government units (LGUs) allowing the entry of processed meat products is still in effect.
The agency has also reminded LGUs through a memorandum to continue observing strict guidelines regarding the movement, distribution, and sale of processed meat products “to protect consumers and stakeholders in the meat industry from any disruption in the flow of trade and commerce across the country.”
For its part, the DA has been implementing the “1-7-10” quarantine protocol in suspected ASF areas. The protocol specifically targets and isolates an affected area and avoids penalizing the whole pork industry by allowing the issuance of a ban on meat and meat products emanating from the affected province, region, or island of the country.
Following this protocol, quarantine checkpoints are set up in areas within a 1-kilometer radius of farms possibly having cases of ASF. All pigs within the area are to be culled.
Within a seven-kilometer radius, authorities conduct surveillance and limit any animal movement. Meanwhile, farm owners within a 10-kilometer radius of an affected area are required to report to the authorities if they have pigs showing signs of ASF.
If ASF breaks out in the Cordillera, given its terrain and location, what are its implications to the local backyard industry and the whole of Northern Luzon?
Following established and existing quarantine measures and guidelines, and the need to have a “one nation” approach to control the spread of ASF, what can the citizenry, LGUs, DA, and other agencies of government do?
We will answer these specific questions in our next column.