THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA) said it will be requesting for an immediate temporary suspension of importation of pork and pork products from high-risk countries in support of the local hog industry.

“The stakeholders agreed to draft and sign a petition for an appeal addressed to the President. I would personally hand carry that letter,” DA Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said at the sidelines of a meeting with local hog raisers Monday.

High-risk countries are those that are not yet infected by the African Swine Fever (ASF), but there is a high chance of getting infected. These countries are yet to be determined.

The meeting also discussed possible loopholes in the coordination among relevant agencies that take on the issue, citing the entry of luncheon meat brought in by an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) from Hong Kong, a country now infected by the ASF.

“I have to admit na mukhang kulang kami sa (it seems like we lack in) coordination… and this is something that we really have to look into,” Mr. Piñol said, acknowledging that the government would be to blame if ASF enters the country.

Mr. Piñol is also set to discuss the temporary suspension with local importers, and appeal to them to buy local for the meantime.

He said there is a buffer stock in cold storages enough for about five months.

There will also be discussions on Tuesday with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the recall of processed meat products from ASF-affected areas that were manufactured after August 2018.

As for other security measures, the agriculture chief said they are also considering the installation of x-rays mainly for quarantine purposes. This is aside from the deployment of meat sniffing dogs in airports. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio