The Philippines is closely coordinating with the US authorities to register Vietnamese vaccines against African Swine Fever (ASF). With recent ASF outbreaks on record, the nation is leaving no stone unturned to eradicate ASF.
Arnel de Mesa, assistant secretary for operations at the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) spoke about the vaccines at the recently held trade show Livestock Philippines 2023. According to the Philippine News Agency, he said the Philippines’ recommended the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to certify the vaccine.
Besides the DA’s push for the FDA certification, De Mesa also said the country is working on a proposal to subsidise the cost of the vaccine once it is available in the country. De Mesa added that the country is looking for possibilities to get back the function to certify vaccines for animals. “In the future, maybe such authority can be returned to the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) if there are vaccines or other concerns related to animals,” he said.
BAI assistant director Arlene Vytiaco clarified that only 6 to 10 week old pigs will receive the vaccines once they are available. She explained that when asked how they will balance the allocated 600,000 doses of vaccines from Vietnam against the 6 million hogs in the country, she said, “The 600,000 doses are only for this year. For next year and the 3 years after that, we will be provided with 1 million per year.”
Portugal has recently offered to help eradicate the ASF virus from the Philippines. A Portuguese company offered to lend its support. Portugal has extensive expertise on the virus, being one of the countries in Europe that eradicated the ASF virus in the 1970s and 80s. An organisation of pork producers in Portugal indicated its intent to send experts to the Philippines to train personnel of the BAI.
Insurance also plays a role in trying to solve the ASF challenge. The Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) is one of the main state agriculture insurance providers where most of the affected pig producers have policies.
PCIC covers about 58,139 backyard pigs raised in Western Visayas alone, with a guaranteed indemnification of PHP709 million (US$ 12.7 million) in case of ASF. In an interview, PCIC (Western Visayas) manager Eva Ulie Laud said that from June 2022 to June 2023, PCIC insured 26,913 finishers owned by 4,556 hog raisers with a risk exposure of PHP270 million (US$ 4.9 million).
In the same period, 31,226 breeders owned by 13,652 farmers were covered with an exposure of PHP439 million (US$ 7.9 million). The insurance coverage is 1 year for breeders and 4 months for finishers.
PCIC has recently announced that it will no longer accept new insurance applications because ASF cases are spreading fast.
Earlier reports said that as of June 1, there are 15 provinces in the Philippines with active ASF cases. This number is set to increase with each month of vaccine waiting. Recent reports indicate ASF outbreaks in the municipalities of Hamtic and San Jose de Buenavista in the province of Antique, while Dumaguete, the capital city of Negros Oriental province, reports its first ASF case.
Hamtic had a total of 2,335 pig deaths in 28 villages in June, with an estimated damage of approximately PHP22 million (US$ 395,000). The beginning of July 2 saw 2 more villages making a total of 30 villages with ASF cases.
The government tries to cushion the effects by providing financial aid to the affected farmers. Taking the case of Hamtic, the Antique provincial government has allocated PHP2 million (US$ 36,000) as financial aid.
Besides biosecurity measures, the government encourages village officials in other towns with no confirmed ASF cases to conduct mobile information and education campaigns to increase awareness of the disease. The government’s push for the ASF vaccine, coupled with the various existing and new efforts and collaborations is the game-changer expected to put the ASF problem to rest.