AGRI DEPT WARNING: W. Visayas’ swine sector highly vulnerable to ASF

PERSONNEL of the Negros Occidental Provincial Task Force on African Swine Fever, Bureau of Animal Industry, and Philippine Coast Guard seize 777 kilograms of assorted pork products at the Bacolod Real Estate Development Corp. (Bredco) in Bacolod City last September 25, 2019. Region 6 is vulnerable to ASF because it is the transhipment point of meat products from Luzon to Mindanao. (Photo courtesy of Provincial Task Force on African Swine Fever)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

THE hog industry in Western Visayas is in peril once the African Swine Fever (ASF) spreads in the region, authorities warned.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has confirmed ASF outbreaks in the provinces of Bucalan, Rizal, Quezon City, Pangasinan, and Pampanga.

According to Dr. Joenic Natividad of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Regulatory Division in Western Visayas, the region’s swine industry is valued at P7 billion.

“Our swine industry costs at P7 billion ang live animals at the moment, wala pa na ang other industry like feeds, processing, labor, iban pa na attached na negosyo,” he said.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) indicated that Western Visayas accounted for the third highest inventory of swine in the country with 1.26 million heads as of April 1, 2019.

Central Luzon has the highest inventory with 2.10 million heads, followed by CALABARZON with 1.57 million heads.

Natividad added that Western Visayas is considered the “bottle neck” area from Luzon to Mindanao as meat products are usually transported from the seaports or airports of Aklan, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental.

This scenario makes Region 6 vulnerable to ASF.

“Western Visayas is the bottle neck from Luzon to Mindanao, diri gid gaagi sa Caticlan and ma-pull-out sa Iloilo and Negros. Dira gid kita sa tunga, agyan gid ta nila. Kon may gamay gamay lang nga tulo-tulo da sa infected nga baboy, maglapta na sa iya nga ihi, very vulnerable gid kita,” he warned.

Natividad reported that Aklan, Negros Occidental, and Bacolod City imposed a total ban on swine, pork, pork products and by-products from Luzon while a temporary ban was also implemented recently in Iloilo province.

On Thursday, Mayor Jerry Treñas signed Executive Order No. 99 imposing the 90-day temporary ban on the entry of live pigs, hog carcasses, pork, pork products, and by-products from Luzon to Iloilo City.

With Iloilo City serving as a main entry/exit of inter-regional conveyance through the Iloilo International Airport and the Iloilo International Port, Treñas said there is an urgent need to adopt preventive measures in order to protect the hog industry of Region 6.

“There is a possibility that ASF may reach the city and cause high mortality rate and affect the food security in the city,” Treñas said in his order.

Natividad appealed to the authorities, other local government officials, and even residents to be observant and be serious in the campaign against ASF.

Instead of seaports and airports, meat products in Luzon are being transported secretly in unmanned areas particularly on the beaches and coastal areas.

Hence, residents should report any sightings especially if there are deaths of swine and other livestock animals.

“As a whole aware naman, ang ginalikawan ta lang ang panakaw na movement kay gapangita sila leeway like sa dagat, gab-i ga-operate or kaagahun, amo na sa mga pumuluyo sa coastal areas nga mangin vigilant. Kon may magsulod didto, magkalamatay na sapat or baboy report dayon sa authorities,” he stressed.

In its effort to spread awareness, DA-6 together with local government units and other stakeholders involved in the swine industry in the region organized an ASF information drive caravan from Sta. Barbara town to Iloilo City.

“Continuous ni siya nga program para pamukaw para makahatag ang LGU commitment nga ma-protect ang swine industry,” Natividad said.

There is no cure or vaccine to ASF.

Meat infected with the virus is considered safe for human consumption. However, humans can be a mechanical carrier of ASF through physical contact.

Upon transmission, it will take two for 14 days before the hog dies, Hilario added.

Symptoms of ASF in hogs include loss of appetite, fever, and skin hemorrhages, and skin discoloration in the ears and abdominal area.