AFRICAN SWINE FEVER (ASF) has spread further, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar announced on Friday, identifying more areas north and south of Metro Manila as the latest affected sites.

Meron sa (There is in) Nueva Ecija, but very small area… One affected area in Cavite… Dasmariñas [City],” he told reporters on Friday, adding that both areas are now implementing quarantine protocols.

The Agriculture department also confirmed that hogs culled now totaled 52,000, about 0.41% of the country’s 12.7 million hog population. Of the culled hogs, about 17,000 — a third — were infected by the virus.

Affected areas have reached 22, including in Bulacan, Pampanga, Rizal and Quezon City.

“Ang (The) lapses, number one, ‘yung mga nagba-baboy ay nagtatago. Apektado na, kinakatay pa, may nagne-negosyo din. ’Yun ang kumakalat (Hog raisers hide affected pigs. Their hogs are already infected, but are still slaughtered and sold. And so the virus spreads). Number two, ’yung hog raisers transporting from one area to other areas [with] affected na mga baboy (hogs), ito ’yung isang pinaka problema natin ngayon (this is one of our biggest problems now),” Mr. Dar explained.

He said that the time has come to use the state’s police powers to force affected hog raisers to comply with disease protocols.

“The DoJ… will now lead in bringing these hog raisers to court kung hindi sila susunod sa batas (if they will not follow the law),” Mr. Dar said, referring to the Department of Justice.

“This is not the time to take advantage of the situation… Pakiusap lang po: tayo lahat Pilipino (We are appealing: we are all Filipinos). Let’s protect our hog industry [now valued at about] P260 billion. Ang daming mawawalan ng income sources kung maaapektuhan lahat (many will lose their livelohood if this will affect the whole industry).”

The department had announced in its Swine Bulletin No. 11 last week that Cabinet members agreed in an October 11 meeting that cases will be filed against hog raisers and traders who will be caught selling or buying and transporting live hogs, as well as slaughtering ASF-infected pigs and selling products infected by the virus. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang