THE Department of Agriculture (DA) lacks the capacity to apply stringent biosecurity measures to counter the threat of African Swine Fever (ASF), a group of farmers claimed.
“We are gravely concerned over the apparent inadequate preparation of our Agriculture department towards preparing the country for possible outbreak of ASF into our territory, (without a) prevention and control program,” Teody De Belen, National Vice President of the Association of Free Farmers (AFF), said in a statement on Sunday.
“We are concerned because one of the main sources of livelihood and domestic consumption in the country is farming and backyard hog raising. And once the disease manages to get into our swine, it will have a very serious national implications in terms of the livelihood of our rural folk and job losses for those working in pig farms,” Mr. De Belen added.
According to AFF, local government officials should have the capacity to respond to certain situations.
“They need to know what to do in order to prevent it. But if ever it gets into our borders, they need to know how to control it. So the technical assistance that can be provided by the DA is very strategic and very important at this stage,” Mr. De Belen said.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that the DA has met with hog raisers to address ASF issues. Inspections in ports are also being performed to ensure that pork and pork products contaminated by the virus will not gain entry into the Philippines.
“I just met with the hog raisers’ group last week and we are all ready to face the challenge,” Mr. Piñol said in a mobile message, also on Sunday.
In a social media post, Mr. Piñol said that dogs will also be deployed to the ports to help inspect luggage that may be carrying pork.
“The DA-BAI (Bureau of Animal Industry) has issued an invitation to companies offering the services of sniffer dogs to immediately coordinate with the Office of the Secretary for the emergency engagement of their services,” Mr. Piñol said.
“The sniffer dogs will be deployed in all airports and ports of entry and will be employed in checking for the presence of meat in the luggage of incoming passengers.”
“The DA is also preparing an Administrative Order which would impose stiff penalties for violating Quarantine Protocols which include bringing in plant and animal products without the needed Sanitary and Pytho-Sanitary Permits,” Mr. Piñol added. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio