AS THE demand for pork products rises amid the upcoming holiday season, the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Western Visayas is stepping up its efforts on maintaining the P20-billion swine industry of the region free from African Swine Fever (ASF).

DA-Western Regional Executive Director Remelyn Recoter, during the year-end press conference at the Westown Hotel in this city last week, said there have been attempts to bring in processed pork products from ASF-hit areas in Luzon as Christmas and New Year go near.

Recoter said they have been enjoining the people in the region to refrain from online buying of pork and pork products.

"We are not sure where these pork products are coming from. Pasalubongs are good but bring in cash, not ham, tocino and longganisa from Luzon and Mindanao areas affected by ASF," the official said. "Please help, cooperate and support the region's swine industry comprised mainly of backyard raisers, at about 80 percent."

The regional line agency, she said, has already requested the local government units, especially the Provincial Veterinary Offices and the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to check on baggages of incoming residents to ensure non-entry of the dreaded disease affecting swine in the region.

In Negros Occidental alone, at least 250 kilograms of pork ham products amounting to about P37,500 were intercepted at the Bredco Port in Bacolod City since last week.

Provincial Veterinarian Renante Decena said these are on top of the 25 kilograms of products like longganisa, hamonado and chorizo worth about P4,000 seized from an authorized person outside residence (Apor) and locally stranded individuals (LSI) from Manila at the Bacolod-Silay Airport in Silay City also last week.

Decena reminded the public that transporting or selling pork products from Luzon to the province is prohibited.

The ban was imposed as per Provincial Ordinance 2019-024, otherwise known as the "ASF Prevention Ordinance of Negros Occidental."

"They [violators] shall be prosecuted and penalized through our Provincial Legal team," he said, reiterating his call to Negrenses to be law-abiding so the province remains ASF-free.

For her part, Recoter said, "we are very much thankful to the vigilance of the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental through its Provincial ASF Task Force."

The regional director further said the agency is doing its best to protect the region's border through one, intensified inspection by the BAI along with provincial veterinarians.