ASF Philippines: reinforcing strategies to curb outbreaks

11-01-2023 | |
ASF Philippines
The Philippines government continue to unveil strategies to counter ASF outbreaks. Photo: Dan Renco

The Philippine News Agency reports that as of November 2022, 26 municipalities, 17 provinces and 9 regions in the country are still affected by African Swine Fever, and new outbreaks are frequently reported. The nation is thus reinforcing its strategies to restrain ASF in the Philippines.

Reports show that since the Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed the first outbreak in July 2019, as of July 2022, 53 provinces, 704 cities/municipalities, and 3832 barangays have experienced ASF outbreaks in the Philippines.

Red and infected zones

The recent provinces to be placed under the red or infected zone are Iloilo and Sorsogon provinces, while recent towns under the red zone include Oton, San Miguel, Leganes, New Lucena, Alimodian, Santa Barbara, and Mina. Other provinces affected by ASF include Ifugao, Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, Leyte, Northern Samar, Zamboanga del Sur. Zamboanga Sibugay, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

“The movement of live pigs, pork, pork products (fresh/frozen pork products and uncooked processed pork products, except cooked and canned processed pork products), and swine genetic material in and out of the affected municipalities shall be prohibited. The red zone status shall remain until lifted,” the Executive Order said.

In addition to the movement restriction of pigs and pork products, several strategies have been deployed to curb the spread of the virus.

Festivals to help fight ASF in the Philippines

Some cities are holding festivals to help fight ASF. For example, the “Porky Porky Festival” in the municipality of Leganes offered roasted pork on Dec. 1, 2022. The festival that serves as part of the recovery measure against ASF saw the display of 36 lechon (roasted pork), which added a flavourful colour to the town’s switch-on of Christmas lights ushering in the holiday season.

The tourism office also offered training on the preparation of various pork menus for the Pork Festival. During the festival, pig producers were encouraged to release their stocks and earn income by selling lechon rather than facing the threat of the ASF.

The 36 pigs were purchased by the municipal government from pig raisers using the funds coming from the provincial government. When the ASF situation gets back to normal, the proceeds from the festivals will be used to purchase piglets for affected pig farmers.

Increasing surveillance and product control

The veterinary office and the National ASF Prevention and Control Programme in the Philippines are working hand-in-glove to increase surveillance, movement of pigs and pork products and control of pork products from the supermarkets. The target of the surveillance is farmers within the 1-km distance of affected areas.

In a November 2022 interview, Dr. Aimee Jimeno, the provincial veterinarian, said stringent measures have also been established to protect Dinagat Islands from ASF contamination. “The entry of live hog and its by-products has been temporarily banned in Dinagat Islands as the province remains a “green zone” or free from the contamination of ASF in the Caraga Region. Our neighbours, especially Siargao Island and Surigao del Norte, are now contaminated with ASF. This measure is necessary to protect our local hog industry from being infected,” she said, emphasising that the control is not only in red zone areas but also in green zones.

Elsewhere, veterinary inspectors have started pulling out banned pork products from supermarkets and grocery stores, with, for example, at least 76 kilos of assorted pork-based food items from Iloilo City seized and destroyed in Bacolod town, November 2022.

Cash-for-work programme

In November 2022, in Zamboanga city, 149 farmers affected by ASF qualified to benefit from the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantage/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program of the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE). Under the TUPAD program, farmers whose pigs were culled due to ASF infection will be undertaking cash for work and receive a minimum daily wage (for a minimum of 10 days, but not exceeding a maximum of 30 days). The work scope includes cleaning and disinfection of pig pens or community service.

Projects and training

Davao del Norte’s Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS) is a recent recipient of PHP10 million worth of projects aimed at boosting its pig production. In a statement, Olivia Gatus, officer in charge of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) 11 (Davao region), said the projects consist of housing facilities, breeder animals, and equipment. Through this program, Gatus said, there is no need for IGACOS to import pork and its by-products since it can now be self-sufficient. Gatus also said the techno demo farm will serve as a venue for training, extension, and learning of farmers, students, and interested individuals, among others.

Throughout the country, INSPIRE (Integrated National Swine Production Initiatives for Recovery and Expansion) is focused on pig repopulation, encouraging raisers to go back to business, while pursuing efforts to control the spread of the virus.

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Matthew Wedzerai Correspondent