Dar warns quarantine violators amid more swine fever outbreaks
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture on Tuesday threatened legal action against hog traders ignoring strict animal quarantine rules as it confirmed new cases of African swine fever infections in Metro Manila and a province in the Ilocos Region.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the highly contagious and deadly disease was detected in another backyard hog-raising business in Quezon City.
Dar, who also confirmed African swine fever outbreaks in Pangasinan province, has ordered the culling of pigs in affected areas.
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 told reporters that hog traders transporting infected pigs were to blame for the rising number of African swine fever 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.”
20,000 hogs culled
At least 20,000 pigs in the country have so far been culled or have died because of the disease since last month, a small fraction of its swine herd estimated at 12.7 million head 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 on 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.
Quarantine in Pangasinan
In Mapandan, Pangasinan, local officials have placed two villages under strict quarantine to prevent the spread of swine fever that has infected more than 100 hogs in several backyard farms in the town.
Mayor Anthony Penuliar said 170 pigs from Barangay Baloling and Guesang had been culled since last week after 15 of 30 blood samples taken from the animals tested positive for swine fever.
Jovito Tabarejos, assistant provincial veterinarian, on Tuesday said all other pigs within a 1-kilometer radius of the infected hog farms would also be culled.
He said a 7-km radius quarantine would be implemented to control the spread of the disease but this would depend on coordinating with six other local governments that might be affected by the measure.
Five towns, one city
He said the protocol would cover the towns of Mangaldan, Manaoag, San Jacinto, Santa Barbara and Laoac, and Urdaneta City.
In Pozorrubio town, police on Tuesday cordoned off the hog farm of a trader after some of his 193 pigs, which reportedly came from Bulacan province, were suspected to be infected with African swine fever.
On Sept. 26, quarantine officers intercepted the trader’s truck carrying 60 other hogs after noticing that the pigs “looked very tired” and could have been traveling for long hours.
They said a document showing the hogs came from Bulacan was recovered from the truck. But the trader denied the allegations and said his hogs were raised in the town.
Provinces impose ban
To protect their hog-raising businesses, several provinces have imposed a ban on the entry of pork and pork-based products from the disease-hit areas, including Metropolitan Manila.
“We have now asked 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.
Cagayan de Oro is the latest local government to impose a ban on the entry of all pork and pork products, hogs and boar semen from Luzon.
City spokesperson Maricel Casiño-Rivera said the order, signed by Mayor Oscar Moreno on Sept. 30, was aimed at protecting the region’s hog industry.
Cagayan de Oro is the regional seat of northern Mindanao, one of the top hog-producing regions in the country. The region produces close to 200,000 metric tons annually.
But the order was not a unilateral action by the local government, Rivera said, as Moreno signed the order after strong recommendations from agriculture officials in Region 10 and the Northern Mindanao Hog Producers Association.
On Sept. 11, the provincial government of Misamis Oriental prohibited the entry of pork and pork products from Luzon into the province. —With reports from Yolanda Sotelo, Froilan Gallardo and the wires
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.