THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will tap a Quick Reaction Fund (QRF) to buy 20 X-ray machines to be deployed in various ports to guard against the entry of pork from African Swine Fever (ASF)-affected countries.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte “has approved the utilization of the Quick Reaction Fund (QRF) of the Department of Agriculture for the emergency procurement of 20 units of X-Ray machines which will be established in all international airports of the country to check agricultural products, especially meat, brought in by passengers,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a social media post on Friday.

DA proposes to spend P130 million from the QRF for the immediate procurement of the machinery, as well as other items to prevent the entry of tainted pork, which could decimate the domestic hog industry.

He also noted that Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, who also heads the Economic Development Cluster, also supported the procurement proposal.

The x-ray machines are intended to examine passenger baggage for por products from ASF-affected territories like Belgium, Bulgaria, China, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, Zambia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, and North Korea.

The DA has requested all delivery companies not accept any meat products sent from those countries, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also order the recall and seizure of imported pork meat products from those countries.

The DA has also deployed sniffer dogs at airports. Passengers found to be carrying such pork products are subject to a fine of P200,000.

Canned goods confiscated from an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) from Hong Kong has tested positive for ASF.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), total hog production in the first quarter of 2019 grew 1.6% to 567,420 metric tons (MT). The average farmgate price of hogs raised for slaughter fell 2.7% to P110.52 per kilogram (kg).

ASF is non-treatable and contagious, and can kill swine in as little as two days. The virus still has no vaccine, and raises the prospect of mass culls if the P200-billion hog industry is affected. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang