MANILA - Agriculture Secretary William Dar revealed Monday that there have been reports of possible cases of African swine fever in the country as early as May, although this has never been discussed to the public.
“Even as early as May they said there have been observations but I don't [know] whether they elevated the preventive measures or control measures... Did you ask the previous administration na mayroon na as early as May? Wala nga nangyari,” he told reporters.
Dar took office on August 5, replacing Emmanuel Piñol, who now leads the Mindanao Development Authority.
Piñol tendered his resignation in June but formally vacated the position as DA chief a few days before Dar stepped into the picture.
He denied Dar’s statement that cases of ASF were already reported as early as May.
“Alam niyo ba ang gestation period ng virus ng ASF? 5 days. Kung mayroon yan yung May eh 'di as early May sumabog na 'yan,” Piñol said.
Local government units in areas that have been identified to have African swine fever are currently using what the Department of Agriculture calls as the 1-7-10 protocol, which basically means culling all pigs within the 1-kilometer zone of the infected piggeries and controlling the movement of live pigs from the 7-kilometer radius, as well as require strict monitoring within the 10-kilometer radius.
Dar on Monday said pigs in a village in Antipolo City tested positive for ASF, but did not name the place.
“There have been quarantined areas in Central Luzon, and including the quarantined areas in Quezon City and one additional lately that was yesterday in one area in Antipolo. Three areas here- 2 in Quezon City, Payatas and Bagong Silangan; and one area in Antipolo which we just started quarantining by applying the 1-7-10 protocol. We will also mention the exact area in due time.”
In total, 12 areas are now ASF-positive, although Dar insisted that the prevalence of the virus in 9 areas is now contained except in Payatas and Bagong Silangan in QC, and the still unnamed area in Antipolo.
DA URGED TO BE MORE TRANSPARENT
International animal welfare organization World Animal Protection said the DA could have avoided the panic and the spread of disease should it have been more transparent.
“There seems a lot of confusion with what ASF is about. There is a lot of fear, there’s a lot of information that people are not necessarily privy about. It is also not helping that at the start of the outbreak there was not much admission on the actual severity of the situation,” World Animal Protection Global Farming Director Mark Dia said.
The World Organization for Animal Health website shows that the Philippines had its first outbreak in July 25. WAP said the cases could have possibly incubated earlier but neither the public nor the stakeholders heard anything from the Department of Agriculture.
“The very fact that from the first instance of July 25, ibig sabihin even prior to that pumasok na yung disease dito sa Pilipinas and within that 1 and a half, 2 months period, no information was out in the domain, then that disease was spreading already. We have to be as transparent as possible without creating panic, and minsan when there is no information, panic actually is the natural reaction,” Dia said.
Dia urged the DA to create a set of guidelines for the stakeholders, local government units, those handling the culling process, to follow and not keep them in the dark.
“That is the kind of information that we seek, appropriate information, timely information that will help everybody and allay everybody’s fear... It is also time for us to admit kung mayroon tayong pagkukulang to seek support from the appropriate authorities in other places so that pwede natin pagtulung-tulongan,” he said.
GLOBAL, ECONOMIC IMPACT OF ASF
ASF is a highly severe disease among pigs, both wild and domestic, with 100% mortality rate. According to the OIE, 77% of the world’s domestic pig population is at risk. It takes two to three decades to wipe out the virus.
China lost almost 40% of its pigs and is projected to lose up to 200 million pigs by the end of 2019. Asia and Southeast Asia produces 60% of world’s pigs while the Philippines is the 8th largest producer.
If the Philippines is not able to eradicate the virus fast enough, this could paralyze the P268-billion hog industry.
World Animal Protection campaigner Vince Cinches said this could create a domino effect and impact the market, trade, and could spike up prices of chicken and fish and other food supply.