African Swine Fever hits Philippine hogs

THE Agriculture department of the Philippines has confirmed the presence of an African Swine Fever (ASF), following weeks of testing the local hogs for disease.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that out of the 20 blood samples sent to the United Kingdom, 14 have been positive of ASF.

“While it is conclusive that it is positive with African Swine Fever, how virulent that virus, we have yet to understand,” Dar told a news briefing on Monday.

Dar said that the disease may have been carried by Filipinos who brought in pork from other countries to the Philippines, and those which have been fed with leftovers from hotels and restaurants.

A second test, which will determine the intensity of virus affecting the hogs, is expected to come out next week.

So far, Dar said 7,416 hogs have been slaughtered, including those that were affected with the disease and those that were located within the one-kilometer radius of the affected piggeries.

The department was also testing out other areas which could have been hit by ASF but he refused to disclose the specific areas.

The Department of Budget and Management has so far released P82 million for the Agriculture department to prevent the disease from spreading further.

The expenditures will be used to provide P3,000 financial aid for hog-raisers, including new piglets for backyard raisers.

The government has also called for the creation of a National Task Force on Swine Disease to be led by the Agriculture department. It will tap the help of the Department of Finance (DoF), the Department of  Interior and Local Government, and the Department of National Defense to tighten “quarantine measures” and prevent the spread of the disease to other provinces.

Dar said the task force would also install foot baths in all airports and seaports, where all passengers would be required to walk on to wash away traces of the swine disease.

DoF Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, in a message to the media, said he was concerned over the inflationary impact of the swine fever. In August, headline inflation stood at 1.7 percent, the lowest level in nearly three years.

Dominguez, however, cited alternatives to pork, such as poultry, beef, and fish.

In a bid to combat the spreading, the Philippine government has banned pork and pork-based products coming from Belgium, Bulgaria, China, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Laos, Moldova, Mongolia, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia.