Piñol bucks donations for culling sick birds
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—A post on the Facebook page of the Bureau of Animal Industry’s (BAI) Avian Influenza Task Force (AVTF) has been taken down for an unauthorized solicitation of materials for workers involved in the culling of sick birds in San Luis town in Pampanga province.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol ordered the post removed on Wednesday night, saying that the Department of Agriculture (DA) was “not lacking in equipment for use in culling infected birds.”
The request for donations was first posted on Monday before Piñol announced on Tuesday that the government had a P68.8-million budget to pay the owners of egg-laying chickens, ducks and quails which were killed within the 1-kilometer quarantine zone in San Luis.
He also made available a grant of P5,000 and no-interest loans of P20,000 to displaced poultry farm workers and traders.
AVTF’s message, posted on Aug. 14, said it needed “materials immediately,” listing its need for personal protective equipment, disinfectants, scrub suits, gloves and masks.
“Kindly contact animal health and welfare division … if you are willing to donate the materials. God bless your good heart,” said the message, which was reposted on Aug. 16. It also listed two hot lines for sending the donations.
Health Assistant Secretary Leonita Gorgolon, who is also Central Luzon health director, said her office has sufficient materials.
The AVTF also posted an old list of areas within the 7-km control zone. The provincial planning and development office denied making the list.
The revised list excluded the towns of Apalit, Minalin and Sto. Tomas and the City of San Fernando. But it had not been posted to the chagrin of local officials who were concerned about the drastic slump in sales of eggs and chicken meat because of the bird flu outbreak.
Gov. Lilia Pineda questioned the solicitation after Piñol had assured her that the DA had adequate funding for controlling the spread of bird flu.
She said the provincial government’s medical team had vaccinated 215 personnel tasked to cull the birds and who guard checkpoints and maintain the command center. These personnel were also provided with meals and water.
The provincial government also set up checkpoints in the 1-km quarantine zone and 7-km control area, sent a backhoe that dug six burial pits, and shouldered the daily wage of workers doing the culling.
It updated local governments on the status of the outbreak, formed 36 teams that monitor poultry farms, and held bird flu awareness and prevention assemblies for barangay leaders.
The virus did not pass from birds to humans. Laboratory tests requested by BAI showed the H5 strain had affected the San Luis poultry and not the H5N1 strain that is harmful to humans.