MEAT vendors and processors in Cebu City are feeling the impact of African swine fever (ASF) after customers question the safety of the pork products they are selling.

Stall owners in the T. Padilla Public Market told SunStar Cebu on Sunday, March 19, 2023, that they have been experiencing a decline in sales in the past days due to the public’s hesitancy.

Bernadette Lauron, 58-year-old meat vendor, said that before she could sell up to 80 kilos per day but now she could only sell 50 kilos at maximum.

“Nahadlok sila sa sakit sa baboy unya sila nagpagana. Maong amoang halin nikunhod gyud (Members of the public are afraid of the pig disease, which is why they are having second thoughts about buying. As a result, our sales have dropped),” said Lauron.

To assure the public that the pork meat she is selling is safe, Lauron hangs the certifications she received from meat inspectors.

“Naa man mi permit kay sigurado garantisado nga luwas gyud ni amoa gipaninda (We have a permit to guarantee that our meat is safe for consumption),” she said.

She said she now sources her pork meat from Compostela in northern Cebu instead of getting her supply from San Fernando in the south.

San Fernando has been placed under the pink zone or the buffer zone since it borders Carcar City where the ASF was first detected last March 1.

Another meat seller, 62-year-old Juaning Binondo, echoed Lauron’s sentiments.

Before ASF cases were confirmed in Cebu, she said, she could sell meat from two pigs every day. Now, she could barely sell a whole pig.

“Naapektohan gyud mi dinhi kay maskin akoang mga anak magdilidili gani nga mokaon sa among gitinda nga baboy (My sales have been affected because even my kids are afraid to eat the meat I sell),” she said.

DVMF info drive

Binondo said she attended a lecture conducted by the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries (DVMF) of the Cebu City Government on the myths and facts about ASF.

“Gitudloan mi sa mga doktor didto sa DVMF kami mga meat sellers nga dili mabalaka sa ASF kay di man makatakod sa mga taw (The veterinarian at the DVMF told us not to worry about ASF because the disease doesn’t infect humans),” she said, adding that she passed the information to her customers to help them understand the situation.

In addition to strict border control and monitoring, the DVMF is conducting an ASF information dissemination campaign in various locations around the city.

The DVMF conducted a lecture on Wednesday, March 15, to educate meat sellers and processors from different public markets, including Carbon, Taboan and T. Padilla.

As of March 17, Cebu City was still free of ASF, according to DVMF chief Dr. Jessica Maribojoc.

The Department of Health (DOH) 7 issued a public health advisory on March 8, explaining that ASF cannot be passed from a pig to a human.

On March 9, DOH 7 Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas reiterated that it is safe to consume pork products, citing there is no evidence that ASF can harm humans.

DILG Cebu support

In Cebu Province, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia’s “no culling of hogs” policy in response to the ASF threat has gained support from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) office in Cebu.

DILG Cebu Director Ian Lucero endorsed the Provincial Government’s “evidence-based, calculated approach” in addressing ASF, according to Sugbo News, Capitol’s media arm.

Lucero made the statement during the Caravan of Provincial Government Services in Pinamungajan town on Saturday, March 18, 2023.

The official’s statement came after Governor Garcia emphasized the adoption of a localized ASF policy to prevent losses in businesses and livelihoods that may result from the culling policy of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Lucero praised the governor’s “well-studied policies in addressing critical issues like ASF, which she also demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The DILG official also supported the governor’s defense of local autonomy in creating localized policies.

Governor Garcia invoked the Local Government Code of 1991, which mandates national agencies to consult and coordinate with local government units in the planning and implementation of projects and policies, in arguing for the ASF policy before the DA’s regional officials during their meeting on Friday, March 17.

On the same day, the governor issued Memorandum 06-2023, directing mayors, the DA and the police to observe the policy that no pigs will be culled in Cebu Province without prior approval from the Capitol.

Garcia also issued on Friday Memorandum 7-2023, directing national agencies to coordinate and consult with the Provincial Government before the implementation of national projects.