Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
After lab tests have confirmed that African swine fever is the cause of the deaths of pig herds in at least seven areas in two provinces in Luzon, a multi-agency body will be set up to ensure the highly-contagious disease does not spread further.
More than 7,400 pigs have been culled on farms in villages in Rizal and Bulacan provinces that were feared to have been hit by the viral infection in recent months. Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the Department of Agriculture is verifying reports of infections in other areas but he refused to identify the areas.
Dar also appealed to media to help the government prevent public alarm that could hurt local pig farming because according to the World Organization for Animal Health, although African swine fever is fatal and highly contagious for pigs, with no known cure, it is not a risk to human health.
Philippine authorities are trying to control the problem with tighter quarantine checks, including in airports and seaports and a crackdown on smuggling of imported meat to prevent large-scale outbreaks. They also assured that pork supply and prices will remain normal.
The Philippines is the latest country to report the disease. Hard-hit China and Vietnam have culled millions of pigs and are scrambling to find a vaccine for the infection that has ravaged their swine industries. In Vietnam alone, the virus has caused the deaths of more than four million pigs. It can be transmitted through contaminated feeds and even through non-living objects such as shoes, clothes and knives due to the high resistance of the virus.
The DA is understandably trying to prevent panic among Filipinos and at the same time assure the normal supply and prices of pork in the country as it tries to contain a possible outbreak that could deliver a significant blow to the hog raising industry. Human health is not threatened by the African swine fever but our food supply and security could be adversely affected, leading to supply problems and possibly higher inflation, which given our government’s propensity to resort to kneejerk reactions of late, could lead to ill-conceived short term solutions that ultimately do more harm than good in the long run.
Now that it has been confirmed, the DA should do everything in its power to contain the outbreak and protect the country’s food supply from another shock.*