FIVE towns and one city in Batangas have been declared free from African Swine Fever (ASF), the first local declaration of ASF-free areas in the country, the International Training Center on Pig Husbandry said on Monday.

In a statement, the center said the six ASF-free zones are the municipalities of Rosario, Malvar, Taysan, San Jose, and Nasugbu, and Lipa City.

The Batangas provincial government made the declarations based on their surveillance, as supported by the Department of Agriculture’s regional office, Agriculture Spokesman Noel O. Reyes said in a mobile message.

The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) will validate the declarations.

The BAI on June 8 noted a decline in the number of barangays or villages where cases of ASF are still detectable to 19, after more than 2,700 barangays were affected since Aug. 2019.

Pork prices have soared as supply dropped due to the ASF outbreak that has affected many parts in the northern island of Luzon. Several areas in the Visayas in central Philippines and Mindanao in the south were also affected.

“Challenges in the availability of test kits, facilities, laboratories were encountered. Adding on the pressure was the movement of man due to the pandemic, slowing down the surveillance activities, investigations, and repopulation,” the center said. — Jenina P. Ibañez