Duterte forms task force on animal-borne diseases due to African Swine Fever

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2020 12:15 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the formation of a national task force that would handle concerns in relation to animal-borne diseases as the government sought to control the spread of African Swine Fever in the country.

Executive Order No. 105 signed on Feb. 21 but made public only on Thursday, mandates the formation of the National Task Force on Animal-Borne Diseases (NTFAD) which is directed to prevent the entry of such illnesses, and contain and control its transmission.

In his order, the President said the current outbreak of the fatal hog disease in the Philippines poses "catastrophic" effects on the country’s pig industry and "requires drastic disease control and preventive measures."

"To effectively address the current outbreak and to prevent or resolve similar incidents in the future involving other animal-borne diseases, there is an urgent need to create an inter-agency task force which will formulate, oversee and implement effective and coordinated policies and strategies to manage, contain and control the spread of such diseases," Duterte said in the order.

While there are no known effects to humans, the ASF is a highly contagious disease that affects pigs and has no developed cure to date.

The Philippines confirmed its first case of ASF in September 2019, prompting a ban on meat products from countries where the hog disease was first reported. The outbreak was first confirmed in hog farms in Luzon, where thousands of pigs have been culled to contain the disease.

TASK FORCE MEMBERS, DUTIES

The new task force will be chaired by the Agriculture Secretary William Dar and co-chaired by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Its members are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and the respective heads of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation, Department of National Defense, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Justice, Department of Tourism, Bureau of Customs, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Under Duterte’s order, the task force is mandated to formulate policies and measures to address issues relating to animal-borne diseases including those concerning ASF. It is also required to form a framework to control and eradicate such diseases which can include protocols concerning quarantine, surveillance, and proper waste disposal.

For hog raisers affected by ASF, the task force is directed to develop programs to help them either by granting financial assistance or providing livelihood alternatives and skills training.

Members of the task force are also tasked to develop and implement a national public awareness campaign on animal-borne diseases.

Funding for the implementation of the executive order will be sourced from the available funds of member-agencies of the task force and if necessary, the budget department may identify appropriate funding sources.

Duterte on Tuesday met with Dar, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, and local government officials at Malacañang to discuss the ASF outbreak.

The President earlier this month also ordered all government agencies and local government units to comply with the national zoning plan for ASF, which aims to curb the spread of the disease.