CEBU City is still free from African swine fever (ASF), a veterinary official said days after the Department of Agriculture in Central Visayas (DA 7) confirmed that the contagious viral disease in pigs had been detected in other parts of Cebu province aside from Carcar City.

Dr. Jessica Maribojoc, head of Cebu City’s Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries (DVMF), told SunStar Cebu Friday, March 17, 2023 that they were still unaware about the “other areas in Cebu with ASF” as they had not yet been notified regarding the development.

“Wala pa gyud ta kahibaw ana (We still don’t know about that),” said Maribojoc, adding that the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) of the DA had not released an updated ASF map of Cebu.

Last March 15, Dr. Daniel Ventura Jr., ASF coordinator of the DA 7, revealed that following the detection of ASF in pigs in Carcar City last March 1, ASF cases had also been found in other parts of Cebu province. But he would not reveal what these areas were.

Hotspot barangays

Maribojoc said that under the ASF map, Cebu City is still under the green zone, meaning it is still ASF-free.

However, she added that they are closely monitoring several areas in Cebu City that are considered “hotspot barangays” of ASF, which she earlier defined as barangays with reports of pig mortalities.

Last Tuesday, Maribojoc said that amid the ASF threat, the DVMF had been collecting blood samples from pigs in 14 barangays in the city where pig deaths had been reported: Bulacao, Tisa, Buhisan, Cogon Pardo, Inayawan, Cambinocot, Sudlon, Busay, Toong, Sudlon 2, Lusaran, Bonbon, Babag and Budlaan.

Maribojoc explained Friday that once they receive a mortality report, they immediately conduct an investigation by running a test, and trace if the pig came from ASF-stricken places.

She said they had collected samples from different places and submitted these to the BAI for analysis earlier this week.

But she asserted that they are still continuing with the random blood sample collection in backyard hog farms in these areas, including in nearby barangays.

Maribojoc added that it will take two or three days before the results come out.

As of March 6, only Carcar City was placed under the red zone (infected) in the ASF map.

The adjacent municipalities of San Fernando, Sibonga, Aloguinsan and Barili were in the pink (buffer) zone, while the other towns and cities of Cebu were in the yellow (surveillance), light green (protected) or dark green (free) zone.

Information drive

Aside from intensive border control and surveillance, the DVMF is pushing its ASF information dissemination campaign in several places in the city.

Aside from the hotspot barangays and those located nearby, they will also bring the campaign to some mountain barangays.

The campaign aims to educate the public, particularly the backyard hog raisers, about the biosecurity that is applicable in these barangays.

She said imposing biosecurity could impede the spread of ASF, which is a new concept to several backyard hog raisers in the city.

The DVMF will also bring its information campaign to the meat sellers and meat processors in the public markets in the city, including Carbon, Taboan and T. Padilla Market.

No approval, no cull

Also on Friday, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia formalized her order earlier in the week to prohibit the culling of pigs in Cebu province without prior approval from the Capitol.

In Memorandum 6-2023 issued to mayors, the Department of Agriculture and the Philippine National Police Friday, March 17, Garcia called the culling of hogs as an immediate measure to curb the effects of ASF “an illogical and extreme measure which creates a devastating effect upon so many livelihoods tantamount to economic sabotage.”

Last week, 141 hogs in Carcar had been culled on the insistence of the DA for being within 500 meters of the infected site. Garcia argued Thursday that the culling of all hogs within 500 meters from the infected site will lead to the increase in prices of pork meat and byproducts as supplies dwindle, as she also questioned whether the Carcar pigs earlier tested really had ASF, or just plain hog cholera.

In her memorandum, she also said that only pigs manifesting symptoms of ASF or hog cholera shall be tested. (KJF, CTL)