MANILA - Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Monday said he is willing to step down if the avian influenza spreads to the Visayas and Mindanao from the main island of Luzon.
"The moment, halimbawa lang, knock on wood, lumabas ng Luzon [ang virus]. Ma'am hindi ko na kayang pigilan 'yan. Magre-resign ako pag kumalat ito sa Visayas at Mindanao, dahil sa kapabayaan ko. Magre-resign ako," he said in a press conference after he was asked to compartmentalize the ban his agency imposed against the importation of poultry products from Luzon to elsewhere in the country.
Some 18 million eggs are sourced from Batangas, according to Dr. Rufina Salas, Secretary General of the Agriculture sector of the Alliance of the Philippines. While Piñol acknowledged that "a lot of money" will be lost, he called for understanding.
"Wag muna nating bilangin kung ilang itlog yung nabugok sa inyo. Ang tingnan po natin yung gaano kalaking problema ang ating kakaharapin kapag pinabayaan natin itong problemang ito," he said in earlier parts of his press conference.
"Maski isang milyong itlog pa, that is nothing compared to the whole poultry industry of the country na masisira pag pinabayaan natin ito," he added.
The Department of Agriculture last week declared the bird flu outbreak in the farming town of San Luis, Pampanga, and subsequently ordered the stoppage of shipment of poultry and poultry products from Luzon.
Every fowl within the 1-kilometer radius from ground zero in the town is up for culling, said Piñol, while the movement of those within the 7-kilometer radius "will be contained."