DA to implement ‘zoning’ to contain ASF spread

Department of Agriculture (DA) logoTHE Department of Agriculture (DA) is now finalizing a nationwide zoning plan that will control the movement of pork products to contain the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF).

As early as August, several local governments, particularly those in the Visayas and Mindanao which remain ASF-free, have already imposed bans on pork meat and processed products from Luzon.

“The Department of Agriculture is making a national zoning plan with regards to ASF,” Reildrin G. Morales, ASF Task Force head, said during a press briefing on Monday in Quezon City.

He added that this option was not immediately implemented because of its impact not only to hog raisers but also to the market.

According to the World Organization for Animal Health, zoning or compartmentalization and movement of controls is one of the prevention and control methods to contain the virus.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said it is time to implement such measure because there have been hog raisers and traders who do not cooperate and are among the causes of the spread of the virus.

“The zoning started being discussed a month ago, now zones have been identified,” he said.

The plan will be discussed in a Cabinet meeting, and its implementation is targeted within the year.

Under the proposed zoning plan, the country will be divided into five zones: free zone, containment zone, protected zone, surveillance zone, and infected zone.

The free zone will cover Visayas, Mindanao, and Region IV-B — MIMAROPA, composed of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan — since these are not yet infected with the virus.

Areas in the free zone can freely transport their pork and products to any point in the country.

The whole Luzon area, where several outbreaks have been recorded, will be considered the containment zone.

Within Luzon, the protected zones will include Regions I (Ilocos), II (Cagayan Valley), Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), and V (Bicol).

Regions III (Central Luzon) and IV-A (CALABARZON, composed of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) will be classified as surveillance zones since there is a high chance of ASF occurrence within these regions. Areas infected within these regions will be classified under the infected zone.

Those in the infected zone can only trade with their area and in the National Capital Region provided there is proper documentation.

Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Director Ronnie D. Domingo said there are reported cases of pig mortality in areas within the infected zone, but samples are still being tested to confirm if these are ASF-related. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang

Gov’t to test all processors’ pork products

THE GOVERNMENT is now aiming to test the pork products of all licensed meat processors in the country, as those from a Pampanga-based firm seized last month were found positive of African Swine Fever (ASF).

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Rolando Enrique D. Domingo, in an interview after a press briefing in Quezon City, Monday, said they will be meeting with the National Meat Inspection Service for joint inspections, during which they will also be collecting samples for testing.

During the briefing, the Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed that samples of skinless longganisa and Picnic hotdog from Mekeni Food Corp. were positive of ASF after a series of tests.

DA also confirmed that the two cargo containers containing pork products from China seized recently in the Port of Manila were also positive of the virus.

On October 6, branded and unbranded processed pork products were confiscated at Capalan Port in Oriental Mindoro, which were tested positive for ASF. There were unconfirmed reports during that time that the branded processed pork products came from Mekeni.

On October 26, Mekeni voluntarily recalled all its pork-based products prior to the confirmation that its goods had ASF-infected ingredients.

The FDA has so far inspected the facilities and permits of 63 out of 178 licensed meat processing firms in the country, which were all found compliant, including Mekeni.

A composite investigation will be undertaken done to determine where the pork used for ASF-positive products came from.

“After the investigation, depending on the findings, if we see some wrongdoing then… [they will face sanctions] including possible revocation of their license to operate,” Mr. Domingo said during the briefing.

The company said in a statement, “We assure government that we will continue to cooperate in its ongoing investigation to determine the source of ASF. We will also actively support the review of current protocols on issuing certifications for both local and imported raw meats.” — Vincent Mariel P. Galang

Senate eyes passage of bill on disaster resilience department within the year

SENATE LEADERS on Monday said the passage of the bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), a priority legislation of the Duterte administration, is possible ahead of the month-long adjournment beginning Dec. 20.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said the chamber will prioritize the DDR over other proposed new departments, which are the Department of Water and Department of Overseas Filipino Workers, following a series of strong quakes in central Mindanao.

Hindi ito pwedeng maghintay (This cannot wait),” Mr. Sotto said in a radio interview with DzMM, Monday.

When asked if the bill can be passed by year-end, Mr. Sotto said there is “a very big chance.”

The three new departments were among the proposals made by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his fourth State of the Nation Address last July.

House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano last week committed to pass these measures within the first regular session of the 18th Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri on Monday said around seven or eight Senators have already filed their own versions, which may be tackled in the plenary after the 2020 national budget’s approval.

Mr. Zubiri said the DDR proposal could possibly be included in the bicameral sessions in the last week of November.

“We’re looking at possibly having the bicam by Nov. 25 to Nov. 30… pwede naman tayo mag-insert ng (we can insert) priority measures like that, Department of Disaster Resilience.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan