AGRICULTURE SECRETARY William D. Dar said on Thursday that cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country is already on the decline. “The occurrence, the outbreak is now tapering down, it’s decreasing, so it’s a good pangitain (sign),” he said during a press briefing in Quezon City. He also confirmed that areas in Rizal province previously affected by ASF have tested negative for the past three months, but he said the Department of Agriculture (DA) is being “cautious” in declaring these as officially ASF-free. “Minimum of 90 days for observation. Mayroon namang SURE Aid system na kung anong livelihood ang gusto ng apektado, pero ang sabi namin huwag munang baboy ang alagaan (There is a SURE Aid system that gives affected hog raisers capital to start a new business, but we suggest that they should not raise pigs again just yet),” he explained. Data from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) show that the number of pigs culled totalled 147,334 heads as of December 15, of which 18% were infected by the virus. There were 612 barangays affected in the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Tarlac, Rizal, Cavite, Pangasinan, and those in Metro Manila. The DA has a P221.67 million allotment for indemnification to hog raisers whose pigs were culled due to the virus.

Mr. Dar also reported that the national task force for ASF finalized last Wednesday the national zoning plan for managing, controlling, and containing the ASF virus. He added that this would be further strengthened when President Rodrigo R. Duterte issues an executive order to encourage all local government units to abide by the plan. Administrative Circular No. 12, series of 2019, dated December 10, contains the National Zoning and Movement Plan for the prevention and control of the virus. Under the plan, provinces and regions will be classified depending on the status of ASF in their areas as well as guidelines on where they could transport their pigs, pork, and pork products. There are two general zones, containment zone and free zone. Containment is further divided into four: infected zone, surveillance zone, buffer zone, and protected zone. Mr. Dar said that it was also agreed during the meeting that only fully-cooked canned pork products would be allowed to be transported to areas across the country, while processed products like longganisa, tocino, and hotdog cannot be transported to clean areas, most especially the Visayas and Mindanao. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang