Duterte OKs release of P78-M emergency fund vs. ASF

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the release of PHP78-million emergency fund, which will be used to effectively manage, control, and contain the threat of African swine fever (ASF).

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the fund will be utilized particularly for biosecurity and quarantine operations, disease monitoring and surveillance, upgrading of laboratories, capacity-building, and other disease control measures.

Dar said the National ASF Task Force (NATF) will also convene to flesh out inter-agency coordination, in partnership with concerned local government units (LGUs) and the private sector.

Chaired by the President and with the DA as vice-chair and lead agency, the NATF was initially composed of Secretaries Carlos Dominguez III (Department of Finance), Teodoro Locsin Jr. (Department of Foreign Affairs), Eduardo Año (Department of the Interior and Local Government), Francisco Duque (Department of Health), Roy Cimatu (DENR), Ramon Lopez (Department of Trade and Industry), Delfin Lorenzana (Department of National Defense), Wendel Avisado (Department of Budget and Management), Arthur Tugade (Department of Transportation), and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad.

Dar directed other DA regional directors in Visayas and Mindanao to submit their respective disaster management plan to prevent the possible spread of ASF in their areas.

The DA chief plans to meet with concerned governors and their respective veterinary officers to align the local government units (LGUs) local issuances and corresponding actions vis-à-vis national guidelines by the expanded crisis management team, which includes the private sector, for a concerted effort with the NATF.

Dar said the DA during the meeting will present a geographic zoning plan to adjust government response to the developing situation on the ground and effectively prevent further spread of ASF in other parts of the country.

The DA also requested the NDRRMC to immediately operationalize and open a line of coordination between the DA and its relevant agencies with the LGU’s respective DRRMCs for quick response on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) appealed to the government to issue unified national guidelines for the transport of processed meat products after their shipments were disallowed in some provinces due to the ASF scare.

PAMPI earlier submitted to the government their proposed guidelines to resolve the disruption in the local processed meat trade.

Under its proposal, processed meat products that do not contain pork as raw material or ingredient, should be allowed unrestricted movement and distribution in all provinces.

These products include corned beef, beef hot dogs, chicken nuggets, chicken hot dogs, among others.

Meat processors will also be asked to present pertinent documents, such as the veterinary health certificate of the exporting country, and the sanitary phytosanitary import clearance issued by the Bureau of Animal Industry to prove that raw materials used in meat processing are sourced from ASF-free countries.

San Miguel Food, for its part, assured the public that its products are absolutely safe to eat and not affected by the ASF virus.

This, as several provinces have started issuing total bans on the entry of live and processed pork products from various parts of Luzon.

The food and beverage firm said it follows the strictest animal health and biosecurity protocols. Its chilled, frozen, and processed pork are produced from company-controlled hog breeding, growing, slaughtering, and manufacturing facilities.

Its refrigerated and canned meats are cooked with heat above 70 degrees, thereby destroying harmful viruses, including ASF, it added.

“Regular surveillance for diseases through laboratory testing of blood and tissue samples are done to detect any incidence of disease and develop prevention and control measures before each instance develops into an outbreak situation. Our slaughter plants are constantly monitored by the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS). Each hog is inspected before slaughter while each carcass is certified as disease-free before delivery to our meat shops and distributors,” San Miguel Foods further said in a statement. Lilybeth Ison / PNA – northboundasia.com