The Department of Agriculture (DA) is establishing animal disease diagnostic laboratories nationwide in a bid to strengthen the country’s protection from major animal diseases.
William Dar, agriculture secretary, said the issuance of Department Order (DO) No. 13 series of 2019 known as Enhancement of the Biosafety and Biosecurity Capabilities at the DA Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories (BSS project) will be implemented in collaboration with the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (US DTRA).
The DA said following the approval of US DTRA last year, the coverage of the project was expanded to include construction and equipment provision for National Anthrax Reference Laboratory in Tuguegarao City; extension of training; development of a Laboratory Information Management System; and development of an Integrated Laboratory Engineering Master Plan.
“Through the issued DO, we are supplementing provisions in the forms of modifications and additional components under the expanded coverage of the BSS project… The extended training, exercises, and workshops will complement DA’s rationalization efforts to improve and standardize biosafety and biosecurity practices and procedures in DA’s Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory,” Dar said in a statement.
The development of a Laboratory Information Management System will facilitate the management of data within and exchange of information among the Bureau of Animal Industry and regional field offices.
Meanwhile, DA also mentioned plans to establish a National Seed Technology Park in an area with at least 50 hectares to improve the availability and accessibility of good quality and certified seeds in the country.
Ongoing talks with potential partners are underway apart from the P200 million initial funds to kickstart the project next year.
“We will invite all the key players in the seed industry, be it private, multinational, or local.
This will be in one area, maybe a national center in Luzon with branches in Visayas and Mindanao… They can set up not only research there, but even facilities for drying, processing, and packaging. Complete value chain, that’s the whole idea,” Dar said.
The Philippines is currently affected by African swine fever (ASF).
According to a report submitted by the Philippines to the World Animal Health Organization last month, the total number of towns and cities affected by the ASF in the country is already at 29 scattered in Pampanga, Metro Manila, Pangasinan, Rizal and Bulacan.
ASF is a transboundary animal disease that can be spread by live or dead pigs, domestic or wild and pork products as well through contaminated feed and fomites such as shoes, clothes, vehicles, knives and other equipment.
It is not fatal to human beings but is a big threat to the inventory of more than 12 million hogs with a value of P260 billion as it still has no known cure.
As early as September last year, the DA has asked the Bureau of Customs to heighten alert on imported pork products, mandating quarantine officers in ports of entry in the country to review their protocols, including the installation of foot baths and the monitoring of all meat products being brought into the country by tourists.