Cebu gov defies DA protocol on fight vs swine fever
CEBU CITY — Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is taking the reins in the fight against the spread of African swine fever (ASF) in the province, which has been detected in pig farms in three cities and three towns.
Contrary to the protocols set by the Department of Agriculture (DA) in combating swine fever, Garcia lifted all controls on the movement of hogs across the province, halted the culling of pigs in areas where the virus had been detected, and nullified the color-coding scheme that classifies into zones the infection’s ground zero and its surrounding areas.
Instead, she issued Executive Order (EO) No. 10 on Tuesday night (March 21), outlining the localized biosecurity and control measures to contain ASF detected in six areas.
“Samples from blood, serum tissue or any other organ shall only be collected by the properly trained municipal agriculturists or city veterinarian or their authorized personnel in accordance with the defined protocols under the executive order,” Garcia said.
“In view thereof, no person, entity, or any other government agency shall be allowed to conduct ASF testing, random or otherwise, on pigs other than the above-mentioned personnel,” she added.
READ: Swine fever detected in 5 more areas in Cebu
This is the first time that a local government has challenged the DA’s policies on ASF which were crafted in 2019 and enforced throughout the country.
Garcia said her orders were intended to protect Cebu’s P11-billion hog industry from “illogical policies.”
But this was not the first time that Garcia drafted her own policies that were contrary to national government guidelines on disease control.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Garcia issued an executive order allowing residents to ride pillion on motorcycles to help address the lack of public transportation in the province.
READ: Cebu can’t be exempted from following national pandemic protocols – Duterte
Then President Rodrigo Duterte had to intervene in the conflict between Garcia and the national pandemic task force, saying he could not grant the request of the governor since it would open the floodgates of requests from other local governments. Garcia eventually backed down and disallowed back riding on motorcycles in the province.
In February 2022, Garcia issued another executive order allowing the entry of foreign travelers to Cebu regardless of vaccination status—a protocol that did not align with the national government’s order requiring foreigners entering the country to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government had to hold several dialogues with Garcia until the issue died down when the campaign period for the national and local elections started.
This time, Garcia reminded the DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) that under the provisions of the Local Government Code, the province has the authority to respond to an outbreak and that national agencies are required to consult with local governments in the planning and implementation of national programs.
READ: 58 pigs in Cebu test positive for African swine fever
She prohibited the BAI from conducting further “indiscriminate” testing of hogs in the province. She also created the Barangay ASF Task Force in over a thousand villages throughout Cebu to monitor biosecurity measures and profile backyard hogs.
The Inquirer tried to reach the BAI for comment but it had yet to respond on Thursday.
In a statement on Monday, the BAI said it had been implementing hog culling through the National ASF Prevention and Control Program and applied a color-coding scheme to identify areas in the province affected by swine fever.
“The depopulation policy is recognized worldwide as the most logical and tested means to contain the virus in the affected area,” it said.
READ: Cebu no longer free from swine fever
Garcia on Tuesday met with all mayors and provincial board members who all supported the creation of local protocols.
Angel Enriquez, DA Central Visayas director who was in the meeting, also supported Cebu’s policies.
“To be very honest, what Cebu province is doing right now will be an eye opener to all provinces and even to the BAI. This is now the … time to reevaluate the protocols,” she said.
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