Legal action eyed vs hog traders ignoring quarantine rules

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    AGRICULTURE Secretary William Dar yesterday threatened legal action against hog traders ignoring strict animal quarantine rules as the agency confirmed new cases of African swine fever infections in Metro Manila and Pangasinan.

    Dar said the highly contagious and deadly disease was detected in another backyard hog-raising business in Tatalon, Quezon City.

    Dar, who also confirmed an ASF outbreak in Pangasinan, has ordered the culling of pigs in affected areas.

    Last Monday, Malacanang ordered the Agriculture department to contain ASF.

    Dar said the Malacanang directive has been their marching order since day one, adding the reiteration of President Duterte is a reminder to further elevate efforts.

    The incurable disease is wreaking havoc on hog industries in China and Southeast Asia and could also spell trouble for US grain exporters supplying animal feeds to virus-hit countries such as Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines.

    Dar said hog traders transporting infected pigs were to blame for the rising number of ASF cases in the country.

    “All hog traders, the full force of the law will descend upon you,” he warned. “There are existing laws to follow and we hope that you will cooperate.”

    At least 20,000 pigs have so far been culled or have died because of the disease in the country since last month, a small fraction of the nation’s swine herd estimated at 12.7 million heads as of July 1.

    The Philippines, the world’s 10th-largest pork consumer and seventh-biggest pork importer, declared its first outbreak of the disease last Sept. 9.

    Agriculture officials suspect the virus was brought to local farms via food scraps, or swill, from hotels and restaurants fed to pigs, mixed with contaminated imported pork products.

    To protect their hog-raising businesses, several central and southern provinces have imposed a ban on the entry of pork and pork-based products from the disease-hit areas, including Metro Manila.

    “We have now asked the local government units to further strengthen their checkpoints,” Dar said, to make sure undocumented hogs possibly infected with the virus will not be transported to other provinces.

    Dar added there is still enough pork supply in the domestic market and that the government is making sure that only pork meat marked safe to eat by the National Meat Inspection Service is sold to consumers. – Reuters with Jed Macapagal