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Dar assures public pork supply still stable despite spread of African swine fever to more areas in PH

in News/Tabloid PH News

The supply of pork and pork and products in the country remains stable despite the emergence of the African Swine Fever in Davao Occidental and other areas in the country, the Department of Agriculture (DA) assured the public.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said of the country’s 12.7 million swine population, only 1.7 percent had been affected based on the recent report from the field.

Dar said: “From the 216,000 depopulated swine, only about 13 percent is sick, but because of the 1-7-10 protocol, we have to depopulate every hog within the one-kilometer radius.”

Pork makes up about 60 percent of the country’s meat consumption. Aside from the domestic supply, the country also imports about 320,000 metric tons of pork, most of them going to the food processors. The country’s per capita pork consumption is estimated at 16 kilograms today.

Dar said swill feeding primarily caused the outbreak, although the origin is still being traced. Identified possible sources of the ASF include food wastes from ports or smuggled pork products.

After reaching the remote town of Don Marcelino in Davao Occidental, ASF has also been reported in two barangays in Davao City. Mayor Sara Duterte has allocated P20 million to aid the affected hog raisers.

The Visayas island group is now the only area in the country that is ASF-free. The first ASF contaminations in the country were reported in Bulacan and Rizal. It has now reached the the northern tip of the country, particularly Kalinga and Benguet.

On Monday, President Duterte gathered local chief executives to come up with strategies that will prevent the further spread of ASF, as well as the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease.

Dar urged everyone to work together in helping the affected local government units to properly manage, control and contain the said problems.

Just as local hog raisers weep, importers slip into our homes ASF-positive pork products

in Editorial/News

With the confirmation that a meat processor has shipped pork products contaminated with the African Swine Fever (ASF), we can now understand why local government units (LGUs) in the Visayas and Mindanao have banned pork coming from Luzon.

But what has become more glaring after this development is the need not just to thoroughly check pork products from Luzon, but more importantly the pork shipments from other countries.

The Bureau of Animal Industries (BAI) report said that the ASF-contaminated meat products — hotdogs, longganisa, and tocino — produced by a Manila-based processor actually used imported pork. This means that while the government is too busy culling pigs in farms and backyards in some areas in Luzon to prevent the spread of ASF, the bigger threat to the Philippines’ hog industry is actually coming from the outside. 

While local hog raisers are weeping as they see their sources of livelihood being taken away by authorities for culling, we are letting ASF-positive pork products from abroad into our homes. 

Recent tally showed that the government already culled 62,000 pigs in backyard and commercial farms in Luzon. This, of course, is a very small percentage of the country’s swine inventory, which was estimated at 12.7 million heads as of July 2019.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the population of swine in backyard farms is 8.02 million heads, while stocks in commercial farms stood at 4.68 million heads.

Among the regions, Central Luzon recorded the highest swine inventory of 2.21 million heads. This was followed by CALABARZON and Western Visayas with stocks of 1.53 million heads and 1.23 million heads, respectively. The combined stocks of these three regions accounted for 39.1 percent of the country’s total swine inventory. 

The government had said that ASF has been confirmed in various areas of Bulacan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Rizal, Quezon City and Nueva Ecija, which means that south of Metro Manila, the disease is still not present.

Stopping the spread of the ASF to protect the country’s swine industry requires joint public-private efforts.

On the part of the private sector, particularly the P300-billion meat processing industry, prudence should be exercised n the sourcing of pork from abroad. If one of its players has been confirmed to be using ASF-contaminated imported pork, who could tell if there are others in its ranks that are doing it also? The industry just gave the LGUs in the Visayas and Mindanao more reasons to ban their products. Lobbying the government to stop the LGUs’ blanket ban on pork products from Luzon should go hand in hand with concrete proofs that their products are really ASF-free. What if those ASF-contaminated hotdogs, longganisa and tocino have found their way into the Visayas and Mindanao?  

On the part of the government, more measures should be taken to ensure pork products from other countries are being properly tested before they are allowed entry into the ports. An automatic ban should be imposed on pork products from countries with known ASF cases.

We are not saying that the government should now ban imported pork while culling is being done in ASF-contaminated farms—not yet. But if more meat processors are found to be importing pork products that are ASF-positive, then that’s another story.

The real enemy, it appears, is not coming from our own backyard. 

PH economy expands 6.2 percent in Q3 to outpace growth of China, other neighbors

in News/Tabloid PH News

The Philippine economy grew 6.2 percent in the July-to-September period, lifting the year-to-date growth to 5.8 percent, or just a little slower than the government’s full-year target of 6 percent to 7 percent.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the Philippines performed better in the third quarter of the year compared to other Asian countries.

“The Philippines likely ranked second behind Vietnam’s 7.3 percent but higher than China’s 6.0 percent, India’s expected Q3 growth of below 6.0 percent, and Indonesia’s 5.0 percent for the period,” Pernia said.

The economy now needs to expand by at least 6.7 percent in the final quarter of 2019 to reach the lower end of the government’s full-year growth target.

This, according to Pernia, is still doable, with the expected surge in private consumption for the holiday season, as well as the higher spending from the government and more investments from private firms.

“Yesterday, the Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet level and the Committee on Infrastructure approved the updated list of infrastructure flagship projects of the Duterte administration, subject to further refinements. We deem that these projects are more feasible, responsive to medium and long-term demands and challenges towards uplifting the quality of life of the Filipino people, especially those being left behind. Thus, we call on our colleagues in the government, the private sector, partner international organizations, and the citizenry at large to work together to overcome hurdles and ensure that these projects get completed on time, or at least started substantially,” Pernia added.

He added: “For the remaining months of the year, the benign inflation outlook, and more upbeat consumer confidence, are expected to stimulate private consumption, especially with the nearing holiday season that has begun.”

“Meanwhile, the expansionary monetary policy stance of the government is expected to encourage private investments. The Central Bank has already cut its key policy rates by a cumulative 75 basis points this year. It has also lowered banks’ reserve requirement by a total of 400 bps – including the recent 100bps reduction for thrift banks effective December 2019.” 

The agriculture sector is also expected to boost growth in the last quarter of the year, especially with the relatively favorable weather conditions providing the opportune time to ramp up agricultural production, particularly of high-value crops. 

“We note that the upbeat performance of the agriculture sector, growing by 3.1 percent in the Q3 from 0.8 percent earlier this year, was driven by increased production of corn, coconut and pineapple.  We urge the Department of Agriculture and other concerned agencies to swiftly implement the programs and projects under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.  Perhaps, among the priority projects should be the provision of mechanical dryers, particularly in areas where we lack “solar drying” facilities. As the harvest season is ongoing, the government should continue to directly buy palay from local producers affected by the unprecedented decline in farm gate prices to help curb their losses,” Pernia said.

To counter the risk of the spread of African Swine Fever, the government must continue to enforce its biosecurity measures. More stringent quarantine checkpoints, provision of disinfection facilities, and intensified anti-smuggling and meat inspection efforts are also needed, he added.

“As we can see, the Philippine economy has been steadily growing for the past three years. We expect to sustain this momentum in the following years and cement the Philippines’ standing as one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia,” Pernia said.

OFWs told to avoid bringing pork products when they come home for the holidays

in News/Tabloid PH News

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) should avoid bringing pork products to the Philippines when they come home for the holidays, especially those coming from countries with confirmed cases of African Swine Fever (ASF).

This was the appeal made by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to OFWs, noting that airport authorities will also be very strict in checking food items that will be brought in from abroad.

Noel Reyes, assistant secretary at the agriculture department, said this is part of the government’s efforts to stop the spread of ASF in the country and protect the domestic swine industry.

“Huwag na silang magbitbit. Makukumpiska lang sa mga airport at seaport, especially if dumaan sila sa Hong Kong and China,” Reyes said at the weekly Pulong Balitaan forum on Monday (October 28).

The government has already effected a ban on pork and pork products from 24 jurisdictions that have confirmed cases of ASF contamination. 

Parts of the European Union and Africa, as well as China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Mongolia are among the economies that have ASF.

Reyes said aside from risking wasting their money for bringing in pork products, OFWs will also be burdened by documentary requirements, like a certification that the meat they are carrying is ASF-free.

Around 200,000 OFWs usually come home to be with their families during the Christmas season.

Just recently, the DA has confiscated processed meat using imported ASF-tainted pork at a pork in Mindoro. Several local government units have banned pork and pork products from Luzon as a measure to protect their respective swine industry.

Overall, the country’s estimated swine population is at 12.7 million heads as of July 2019. The population of swine in backyard farms is 8.02 million heads, while stocks in commercial farms stood at 4.68 million heads.

Dar calls for strict implementation of ‘1-7-10’ protocol after seizure of ASF-tainted pork products in Mindoro

in News/Tabloid PH News

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar has called on hog raisers, traders and other stakeholders to help the government in strictly implementing the “1-7-10” protocol, following the confiscation of African Swine Fever (ASF) – tainted pork products in a port in Mindoro.

Dar also warned the public that “anybody found selling and trading illegally slaughtered diseased animals are punishable under the law.”

“Again, we strongly appeal to small backyard hog raisers not to sell their ASF-infected pigs to traders, and for traders not to sell infected hogs, and pork and processed products so as not to spread the ASF virus to other areas,” Dar said.

He asked local government officials and swine industry stakeholders to continuously sustain efforts to manage, contain and control ASF, and strictly enforce the “1-7-10” protocol and biosecurity and quarantine measures.

The protocol mandates that hogs cannot be brought in or out of the 1-kilometer radius of the site of infection or ground zero. Pigs in the area will be culled. Meanwhile hogs within the 7-kilometer radius will be under surveillance with restricted movements while blood testing will be undertaken. For the 10-kilometer radius, a mandatory monitoring and reporting of swine disease occurrences shall be implemented.

Dar lauded personnel of the local government units (LGUs), Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) who apprehended a traveler, carrying several packets of processed pork products that tested positive for ASF at a Mindoro port last October 6.

The infected items, composed mostly of homemade products, were confiscated and properly disposed of by quarantine officers.

However, despite appeals from numerous camps, the DA continues to withhold the brand of the confiscated ASF-positive pork products or the identity of its processor.

Amid ASF scare, Visayas provinces urged to just impose conditional ban as region faces shortage of pork supply

in Tabloid PH News

The group of big producers of processed meat urged some provinces in the Visayas to downgrade their total ban on pork products to just a “conditional ban”, as the region would be experiencing supply shortage starting next week.

The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) said under a conditional ban, only those that do not have the required certificates of safety, health and quality compliance will not be allowed to enter certain areas.

“I agree with conditional bans. Conditional ban means products will not be allowed if they do not carry the necessary certificates,” PAMPI spokesman Rex Agarrado said in an interview with GMA News.

Currently, the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Davao City, and Negros Occidental have imposed a total ban on the entry, distribution and sale of pork and pork products from Luzon as a way to prevent the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in the region. The Department of Health (DOH) earlier confirmed that pigs in several Luzon farms have been infected with ASF.

Agarrado stressed that if these provinces would retain their hardline stance on the total ban, the Visayas could run out of stocks of pork and pork products as early as next week.

“In the coming week, I would expect shortages to happen. For canned meat products, we possibly would have longer inventories but they certainly will not be longer than the 90-day ban that has been set forth by the imposing LGU’s,” he said in the interview with GMA News.

The ban, he said, has already prompted logistics firms to halt the shipment of frozen and canned pork products to the Visayas. “The supplies in those areas are really limited. I would venture to say that the inventories in those areas are only two weeks to possibly four weeks at the most.”

With this, Agarrado said concerned agencies such as the  Departments of Agriculture, Health, Trade and Industry, and Interior and Local Government should step in to address the problem.

A supply shortage automatically translates to higher prices, to the detriment of consumers.

“Today, our ability to replenish the stocks are being deterred by shipping companies telling us that anyway, the shipments will not be received so they would rather not also receive our shipments coming here from Luzon,” Agarrado said.

Group asks govt to stop pork importation as another way to prevent ASF spread

in News/Tabloid PH News

Local agribusiness firms appealed to the government to stop the importation of pork products as another measure to contain the spread of African swine fever (ASF), especially at this time when only less than 1 percent of the hog industry has been affected by the disease.

The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) said Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar should suspend the issuance of SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary clearances) for pork importation and cancel all import permits and clearances currently under process.

The group stressed that it is imported pork which brought the ASF to the country.

Sinag also asked the public, the local government units (LGUs) and other stakeholders to be proactive and contribute in stopping the spread of the ASF to save the country’s hog industry.

In a statement, Sinag Chairman Rosendo So said: “We ask all pertinent agencies to increase our border control and fully implement the quarantine policy. We ask our partners at the LGUs to remain vigilant against imported frozen meat being sold at the wet markets because the source of African swine fever is tainted, imported pork.”

So said stopping the entry of imported pork should be made an important component of the drive to prevent further ASF contamination in other areas of the country, now that the Department of Agriculture (DA) already declared that the disease had been controlled and contained in just a few areas, particularly Rizal and Bulacan. The ASF contamination in Quezon City that was reported by Mayor Joy Belmonte is still being verified by the DA through laboratory testing.

He added: “We ask the public to continue to patronize our local pork that remains safe, clean and wholesome. Our Pinoy pork is safe to eat.”

So also appealed to the DA to pay hog raisers P5,000 per head of culled pigs.

So, in an interview with GMA News, said the effect of ASF to the hog industry is still very minimal. “So far we reported 7,600 heads out of 12,700,000 heads, so this is around 0.059% of the total.”

This, he said, is why it would be prudent for the government to stop the importation of pork and pork products at this time.

Pampanga, Quezon, Caloocan, Quezon City, Pasig placed under ASF quarantine protocol

in News/Tabloid PH News

The provinces of Pampanga and Quezon, as well as several cities in Metro Manila, have been added by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to the list of areas that are now under quarantine due to the African swine fever (ASF).

This is based on the advisory issued by the Office of the Provincial Veterinarian of the Province of Batangas, which announced the ban on all live pigs, pork and pork products from the areas affected by the ASF.

“The DA has declared that African swine fever is present in the Philippines. In light of the impending animal disease emergency and to protect the health of local swine population of Batangas province, the temporary ban on entry shall apply to all live pigs, pork and pork products.”

It listed the Provinces of Rizal, Bulacan, and Pampanga, General Nakar in Quezon, and the cities of Caloocan, Pasig, Marikina and Quezon City as areas placed under quarantine.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar earlier announced that it has placed under the “1-7-10” quarantine protocol more areas, including another province in Central Luzon. He, however, did not identify these areas.

Dar explained that under the 1-7-10 protocol, pigs within the 1-kilometer radius of affected farms will be collected, killed, burned and buried.

Areas within the 7-kilometer radius, meanwhile, will be closed for entry or exit of pigs and pork products.

The places within the 10-kilometer radius are under surveillance to determine if pigs have entered or exited these areas.

The Batangas advisory said General Nakar, Caloocan, Pasig and Quezon City were under the 10-kilometer quarantine protocol.

In Quezon City, meanwhile, Mayor Joy Belmonte personally led the dismantling of backyard piggeries in Barangay Bagong Silangan after several hogs there were found to be positive of ASF. 

Belmonte said around 50 pigs have been culled already in areas within the 1-kilometer radius of the affected piggeries.

More areas placed under ‘1-7-10’ quarantine protocol to stop spread of African swine fever

in News/Tabloid PH News

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar on Saturday (September 14) disclosed that more areas have been placed under the government’s “1-7-10” quarantine protocol to prevent the spread of the African swine fever (ASF).

Dar, however, refused to identify these places to avoid complications while the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other concerned agencies are implementing the quarantine procedures.

The “1-7-10 Protocol” divides the types of quarantine procedures that the government is implementing according to distance from the suspected center of the contamination.

This means that authorities have placed areas within the 1-kilometer radius of affected farms under quarantine checkpoints. This is to effectively monitor the movement of live pigs, pork and pork products and check them for ASF contamination.

Areas within the 7-kilometer radius of affected farms, meanwhile, will see surveillance activities and limited animal movement.

Then, for the farms within the 10-kilometer radius, strict compliance to reporting of the ASF is mandated. 

Dar, in an interview with radio station DZBB on Saturday, said: ”Nadagdagan pa po ‘yung mga lugar na under quarantine pero hindi muna namin puwedeng sabihin kung saan.”

He added: ”Meron po sa Central Luzon pero hindi pa po namin puwedeng sabihin para magawa natin ‘yung ground zero or ‘1-7-10’ protocol natin.”

Already reported as places with farms affected by ASF are Rodriguez and Antipolo in the Province of Rizal and Guiguinto in Bulacan.

Dar said a very critical component of the efforts to contain the spread of ASF and eventually erase it is the cooperation of the public, especially in reporting swine deaths.

Dar confirmed last September 9 that ASF was the cause of the death of pigs in Rizal and Bulacan. “If the strain here in the Philippines is highly virulent or not, it will also spell what are the measures we need to put in place.”

ASF causes hemorrhagic fever in pigs, and since there is no antidote or vaccine against it, the only known method to prevent the disease from spreading is a mass cull of affected livestock.

Around 8,000 pigs were already culled in Rizal and Bulacan.

Dar, however, said the ASF does not affect humans, so it is safe to eat pork products, as long as they are certified by the National Meat Inspection Service.

According to data from the DA, the Philippine swine industry is valued at P260 billion, with pork accounting for 60 percent of the country’s meat consumption.

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