By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Some local government units (LGUs) in Visayas and Mindanao are looking to ban permanently the entry of processed pork products from Luzon as part of their long-term measures to prevent the deadly African Swine Fever (ASF) from entering their backyard farms.
Renante Decena, provincial veterinarian of Negros Occidental, said his entire province is now looking to come up with a provincial ordinance permanently closing its doors against pork and processed pork shipments from ASF-hit Luzon.
“We have to have a permanent law or ordinance that will prevent the entry [of processed pork products from Luzon],” Decena said. “We understand that ASF will not be eradicated for years in Luzon.” Other provinces in Western Visayas are also expected to follow suit, he said.
In Mindanao, there are only a few provinces left — with the exception of the Muslim Provinces under Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao — that have not issued an Executive Order (EO) banning the entry of pork and processed pork products from areas affected by ASF.
Marlo Raphael Tee, a hog raiser in Mindanao, said there has been some attempts to bring in some of these products in Zamboanga and the local industry is not letting up. “There is now a lockdown in our province,” he said.
While not dangerous to humans, ASF is highly contagious and can causes up to 100 percent fatality in pigs. United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization noted that ASF virus is resistant to inactivation and may remain viable for long periods in fomites, infected pig tissues, and meat and processed pig products. There is currently no effective vaccine against the virus.
In the absence of a cure, the only available option for ASF eradication is stamping out by slaughter and disposal of all infected and potentially infected pigs.
The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) international animal health code specifies that a country may be considered free from ASF when it has been shown that ASF has not been present for at least three years.
Because of ASF, affected hog raisers in the country already incurred P10 billion worth of losses in the last two months, while the local meat processing industry expects to lose around ₱40 billion to ₱50 billion this year.
Decena said Negros has the largest number of individual backyard hog raisers in the country at 16,000, raising two to three pigs each. In total, they have 510,000 pigs raised in their backyard farms.
“We have to have a law that will penalize the people who will bring in contaminated meat [from Luzon] especially from Pampanga because we have direct flight from Clark to Bacolod. We already confiscated hand carried items,” he added.
In terms of pork supply, Decena said the province has a surplus and they are actually a “food secure” livestock province.
Negros’ provincial ordinance banning the entry of processed pork products from Luzon should already be effective by November.
Cebu, Bohol, and other areas in Western Visayas are now looking at issuing the same order, Decena added.
Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc., the country’ largest group of meat processors, earlier claimed that there will not be enough hams and other pork products in Visayas and Mindanao during Christmas because of the LGUs’ existing bans on pork products.
In contrast to this, a hog raiser said that Central Visayas alone could supply the pork supply needs even of its neighboring provinces.
“There will be no pork shortage over the next three months,” Central Visayas Pork Producers President Rolando Tambago said. “Even in processed pork meat, we will not have any problem.
In the Philippines, ASF was first detected in August in Rizal province and had since then spread to other areas in Luzon, including Bulacan, Pampanga, Quezon City, Cavite, Nueva Ecija, Cavite, Pangasinan, and Antipolo.
To control the spread of the virus, around 64 LGUs in and out of Luzon already imposed a total and conditional ban on processed meat products.
Bohol Govenor Arthur Yap went ballistic upon hearing that Department of the Interior and Local Government ordered LGUs to allow the entry of processed meat products from Luzon provided that they carry all the necessary permits.
“It is really very simple and uncomplicated. Please tell the DA [Department of Agriculture] I am willing to open up Bohol to all hog related products from Luzon as long as I have a guarantee letter that the government will compensate Bohol for the culling and disposal of affected dead hogs from ASF and that my backyard raisers will be compensated properly and immediately upon proof of damages, if and when, ASF gets to Bohol,” Yap said. “If that can be reflected in the budget and the DA will give me a signed guarantee with a mechanism releasing the payment for compensation then we are ready to open up Bohol.”
While LGUs are keeping their bans despite the DILG order, Cavite is “breaking away” from it.
A statement showed that Cavite province has lifted the ban on the sale and distribution of processed pork products.
“Canned goods and processed pork products may be transported as long as the same is authorized by the FDA and other concerned government agencies,” Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla said in an EO. Cavite is the latest province to have contracted the ASF virus.