Cebu governor sues agriculture execs over ASF ‘mess’
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines — Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on Wednesday made good of her threat to sue officials of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) over the alleged lapses in handling cases of African swine fever (ASF) detected in the province.
Lawyers representing the Cebu provincial government filed the complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas, seeking to hold at least five BAI officials liable for violating Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), RA 7160 (Local Government Code) and the New Civil Code.
Named respondents were Dr. Paul Limson, BAI director; Samuel Joseph Castro, deputy program coordinator; and Joshua Cruz, BAI coordinator on ASF. Also included in the complaint were Dr. Miriam Lopez Vito of the BAI veterinary quarantine station in Central Visayas and Dr. Daniel Ventura Jr., Department of Agriculture (DA) Central Visayas coordinator on ASF.
The BAI regional veterinary quarantine station in Central Visayas, when reached on Wednesday, declined to respond to Garcia’s accusations. BAI staff member Carmela Amolot said their chief, Vito, was “on leave” and no one was authorized to speak on behalf of their office.
But in an earlier statement, the BAI said all protocols that it implemented were evidence-based actions and were proven to be the best option until a vaccine against ASF is approved.
“We understand that the affected farmers are sacrificing their livelihood and we appreciate their selflessness to follow the protocols in place. This sacrifice does not go in vain as we work diligently and work hand in hand with you, our stakeholders, in protecting the hog industry,” it said.
In her complaint, Garcia said that the BAI announced the presence of swine fever cases in Carcar City early this month without supposedly validating if it was indeed the virus causing ASF.
“BAI ruled to indiscriminately cull all pigs within 500 meters from the affected area. Worse, the agency did not verify as to where the samples, which allegedly tested positive, came from. They merely alleged that the blood samples were obtained from a slaughterhouse in Carcar in line with the regular ASF surveillance,” she said.
The governor said the culling policy in Barangay Can-asujan, Carcar, resulted in big losses to the livelihood of hog raisers in the area.
On March 14, Garcia issued a memorandum to stop the culling of pigs pending an analysis of properly secured samples.
A separate memo by the governor also reminded national government agencies, including the DA, to coordinate and ensure the participation of local governments in the planning and implementation of their projects or policies.
“Despite my orders, BAI personnel continued to implement their culling and zoning map policy to the prejudice of the hog raisers, not only in the City of Carcar, but in the whole province of Cebu,” Garcia said.
“BAI also insists that there is an ASF outbreak in the province of Cebu and that culling is the most effective way to contain the virus. This… sweeping statement of the BAI has an immediate impact on the livelihood of the Cebuanos,” she added.
In the implementation of the ASF programs, Garcia said the BAI failed to coordinate with the concerned local government as required under RA 7160.
“In the end, it is not the ASF that kills, but the incompetence and inefficiency of public servants, as demonstrated by the respondents’ acts,” she said.
Early this month, the BAI announced the detection of the first ASF cases in Cebu from Carcar City. It was followed by ASF infections in the cities of Cebu and Bogo, as well as the three municipalities of Sibonga, Liloan, and Tuburan.
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Cebu gov defies DA protocol on fight vs swine fever
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