LOCAL Government Units (LGUs) need to take the lead as “first responders” in containing African Swine Fever (ASF) after the spread of the disease nationwide, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said.

In testimony before the House, Mr. Dar said the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) mandate requires it to regulate imports and monitor ports of entry, but LGUs need to be prepared for local outbreaks in the various provinces and towns.

“(The DA is) only first responder in international ports, seaports and airports. However, if it occurs in their respective provinces, the local government units should be the first responders,” Mr. Dar told a House joint hearing of the Agriculture and Food and Local Government committees.

At the hearing, Mr. Dar said as of March 2, ASF has been detected in 625 barangays across eight regions, with 237,406 animals culled as a preventive measure against the outbreak.

Mr. Dar said some hog traders have been persistent in selling infected animals, complicating containment efforts.

Madali sana patayin ang virus sa isang area. Pero kung tinitinda mo pa rin sa isang lugar ang baboy (It should have been easy to contain the virus in one area. However, if hog traders still sell these infected hogs, how can we stop that)?” Mr. Dar said.

Mr. Dar added that some measures to address the ASF outbreak have failed. He added that some agencies have underperformed.

Undersecretary Ariel T. Cayanan added that the more serious concerns that need to be addressed relate to the trading and movement of pigs.

Meanwhile, the committees were told that ASF was not included in the routine conditions tested for by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Director Pilar Marilyn P. Pagayunan of the Center for Food Regulation and Research of the FDA, confirmed that ASF food inspections are deputized to the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).

The committees were also told that the FDA is only responsible for checking processed pork products while NMIS only inspects raw pork material.

AGAP Party-list representative Rico B. Geron called for stronger action from the national inter-agency task force dealing with the ASF outbreak. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave