P1B OP fund tapped for swine fever

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    PRESIDENT Duterte on Wednesday night approved the use of the remaining contingency fund of the Office of the President (OP) to help in efforts to prevent the spread of African swine fever, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said yesterday.

    Agriculture Secretary William Dar made the proposal to use the President’s contingency fund during the Cabinet meeting in Malacañang on Wednesday. Dar said the fund is about P1 billion.

    Panelo said the fund will be used to indemnify affected hog raisers but details will be left to the Department to Agriculture.

    He said the President also approved Dar’s recommendation to designate cold storage areas in the ports of Manila, Subic, Batangas, Cebu, and Davao for 100 percent monitoring of the entry of meat products.

    Panelo said Duterte is satisfied with the how the government, through the DA, is handling the ASF situation in the country.

    The National ASF Task Force (NATF) the other day said that the situation in the country is “managed” compared to other affected nations.

    The government said the local hog industry has lost some P3 billion since August due to the ASF while private hog owners said the damage has reached about 10 billion.

    In September, the President ordered the release of P78 million worth of emergency fund for biosecurity and quarantine operations, disease monitoring and surveillance, upgrading of laboratories, capacity-building, and other disease control measures against ASF.

    Several areas have been affected, including Caloocan and Malabon cities, and Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, and Cavite provinces.

    Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a former presidential assistant for agricultural modernization, asked the hog industry to fully cooperate with the Department of Agriculture in implementing measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

    He proposed that government suspend of pork importation and instead buy local, as he called for an investigation into the smuggling of pork from China.

    Dar on Monday said ASF-contaminated pork products smuggled from China were responsible for the spread of the swine disease.

    “Someone must be held accountable over these illegal shipments. Now that we have confirmed and identified the cause of the ASF outbreak in the Philippines, it is important more than ever to escalate our efforts to curb its spread,” Pangilinan said. – With Raymond Africa

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