African swine fever hits Cotabato town
KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato, Philippines — The hog-producing town of M’lang in Cotabato province was hit with the African swine fever (ASF) infection for the first time, forcing local authorities to cull at least 30 heads of pigs over the weekend.
The infection of its hog population was a blow to M’lang, a progressive town whose economy relies on agriculture, livestock trade included, as it is a major supplier of live hogs to the Visayas market. The town also holds the Kawayanan Festival every December, where the municipal government gives more than 50 free “lechon” (roasted pig) for the festivity.
Arlene Encarnacion, the acting municipal agriculturist, said the hogs that were culled were scheduled to be slaughtered in the town’s double A slaughterhouse and were supposedly sold at the public market on Saturday.
But the reported deaths of hogs in the villages of New Antique and New Lawaan reached the management of the slaughterhouse earlier on Friday, prompting officials to get blood samples for laboratory examination that later confirmed the ASF infection. Blood samples collected from the hogs that died in the two villages were also found positive for ASF, Encarnacion said.
Stalls in the public market have been emptied of pork products, including processed pork meat, while officials awaited the results of the other blood samples earlier sent to General Santos City, she said.
At least four communities in both villages were considered ground zero for ASF infection, and hogs within the 30-meter radius were grounded in these areas. The town’s agriculture office has also been monitoring hogs in adjacent villages for possible infection.
In an emergency meeting on Monday, Mayor Russel Abonado asked that more blood samples should be collected in the villages adjacent to ground zero to check how far the ASF infection has spread.
Abonado also ordered all chiefs of the town’s 37 barangays to strictly observe the entry and exit of all hogs in their respective areas, apprehend violators and prepare for the filing of charges in court.
He also assured financial aid to affected hog raisers, which the town would take from its 30 percent quick-response funds, amounting to almost P5 million.
But before they could tap the funds, Abonado said the municipal council would need to declare the town under a state of calamity during its session on Wednesday.