DA: No African swine fever epidemic

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    THE Department of Agriculture (DA) yesterday said there is no African swine fever (ASF) epidemic in the country and clarified that ASF episodes in several areas in Bulacan and Rizal are only considered outbreaks.

    Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the ASF incidents in barangay Pritil in Guiguinto, Bulacan, and in several barangays in Rodriguez, San Mateo and Antipolo, Rizal have already been contained.

    ASF, he added, has not affected the entire country.

    Amid growing concerns over the spread of the ASF, Dar appealed to the public not to be scared over unverified and unvalidated reports related to alleged ASF infection in various areas as he warned of possible irreversible damage to the P260 billion swine industry, of which 65 percent is comprised of small backyard raisers.

    Dar’s comments came following reports of dead pigs suspected to be infected with ASF found floating in the Marikina River and the discovery of sick hogs in Quezon City.

    He reiterated that 7,416 pigs in the one-kilometer radius in ASF areas in Rizal and Bulacan have already been depopulated, following proper protocol to manage, contain and control the spread of the disease.

    Dar also mentioned that one ASF-infected slaughterhouse in barangay Gitnang Bayan 1, San Mateo, Rizal, has already been closed, cleaned and disinfected. Meanwhile, continuous strict surveillance is also being conducted in areas near ASF-infected barangays in Rizal and Bulacan.

    Dar assured the public that the presence of ASF in the country will not affect the supply and prices of pork in the market as the disease is confined and specific in certain areas only and not in the entire country.

    At present, the DA is still awaiting for lab results of samples sent to the United Kingdom to confirm the strain and virulence of ASF that is currently affecting the Philippines.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said that if the DA says it is safe to eat pork, “then so it is.”

    Panelo noted the DA has already made public assurances that it is safe to eat pork products after it conducted separate investigations into the Bulacan and Rizal ASF episodes.

    “They’re the ones who investigated the incident, and so their statements were based in their findings,” Panelo said.

    He said the DA is also expected to take appropriate actions on the reported presence of dead pigs in Quezon City, after more than 10 dead pigs were found in Quezon City and which Mayor Joy Belmonte claimed to be caused by the ASF.

    Panelo said local government units are expected to coordinate with the agriculture department before taking any action or making any announcement concerning suspected ASF cases that can cause undue alarm to the public.

    “The better action will be to call the DA secretary first so that he would know exactly what is happening in one particular place,” he said.

    Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said the city government will file criminal charges against hog raisers responsible for the dumping of dead pigs in the Marikina River, which reached a total of 58 on Sunday afternoon.

    Teodoro said charges of violation of the Animal Welfare Act (RA 8485) and the Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) will be filed against those responsible for the incident.

    Under the Animal Welfare Act, a person found guilty will be imprisoned from six months to two years, pay a fine between P1,000 to P5,000 or both.

    The Solid Waste Management Act, on the other hand, states that a person convicted of violating the law shall be imprisoned for a maximum of three years and pay a fine of as high as P1 million, or both, plus a fine increase of at least 10% every three years.

    Teodoro said he has already submitted the city government’s initial findings on the dead pigs to the DA.

    Teodoro said he has coordinated with local officials from the Rizal province on the conduct of an investigation among hog raisers in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban) who might be responsible for the dumping of the dead pigs.

    There is no piggery or slaughter house in the city of Marikina. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Christian Oineza