BusinessMirror - - Front Page - BY MANUEL T. CAYON

DAVAO CITY—Un­til now, prac­ti­cally no­body could come up with a plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion yet on how the dreaded African Swine Fever (ASF) man­aged to sneak into the sleepy and dusty down of Don Marcelino town of Davao Oc­ci­den­tal in the fi­nal week of Jan­uary, more than six months af­ter the first case of ASF in­fec­tion was recorded in the Philip­pines’s Lu­zon is­land.

When the re­ports came of a lock­down in the trans­port of pigs (or swine, or hogs) and other pork prod­ucts in the town, and the confirmati­on of the ASF in­cur­sion across the Davao re­gion and the neigh­bor­ing re­gions, au­thor­i­ties were jolted into the re­al­iza­tion that the first case of in­fec­tion just hap­pened in Min­danao.

This south­ern Philip­pine is­land had put up a strong guard against in­cur­sions of other live­stock dis­eases in the past, from the foot-and-mouth dis­ease to bird flu, that were in­fect­ing Lu­zon.

Ap­par­ently, the quar­an­tine pro­to­cols re­mained in place, but the sus­pi­cious look was cast on port quar­an­tine and the unchecked sup­ply chan­nel through the lit­tle piers in small pro­vin­cial cap­i­tals and ma­jor towns.

This also in­cludes the sup­posed im­prac­ti­cal move to sub­ject all trav­el­ers to in­di­vid­ual search to ferret out those car­ry­ing pos­si­ble in­fected pork meat prod­ucts in small pack­ages, an in­di­ca­tion of the poros­ity of quar­an­tine in the ports.

This may have been ag­gra­vated by the non­cha­lant be­hav­ior of the pub­lic since they may have not been in­formed or warned, or sim­ply put, would not know any bet­ter. Eco­nomic losses

THE eco­nomic con­se­quence and se­ri­ous pro­duc­tion and sup­ply prob­lem, ac­cord­ing to the Paris-based World Or­gan­i­sa­tion for An­i­mal Health, has been di­rected at the spread of the ASF, es­pe­cially in Asia.

The im­pact is harsh among back­yard hog-rais­ers, where biosafety pro­ce­dures are prac­ti­cally ab­sent and an­i­mal health is­sues are wide­spread but min­i­mally at­tended to.

Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Wil­liam Dar said losses in Lu­zon alone since last year have reached P1 bil­lion ev­ery month.

Here, in the in­fected ar­eas of Davao Oc­ci­den­tal and Davao City, the losses could not be less than P80 mil­lion in the first week of con­tain­ment amid culling and de­pop­u­la­tion of swine farms. This

amount was based only on the in­dem­ni­fi­ca­tion equiv­a­lent for each pig culled. And de­pop­u­lat­ing the in­fected ar­eas was yet to be com­pleted.

The De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture (DA) has guar­an­teed pay­ment of P5,000 for ev­ery pig culled, while some lo­cal gov­ern­ments have vol­un­teered to give ad­di­tional cash in­cen­tives.

The amount could still rise with to­tal de­pop­u­la­tion rec­om­mended for in­fected ar­eas, with the an­i­mals to be buried in an iden­ti­fied com­mon ground to be dis­in­fected later. Davao Oc­ci­den­tal alone has a swine pop­u­la­tion of 37,713. This would be about P188.56 mil­lion in in­dem­ni­fi­ca­tion equiv­a­lent alone, a fi­nan­cial bur­den ag­gra­vated by other se­ri­ous chal­lenges: the lack of sup­ply in the mar­ket and the other ac­crued losses in hog trad­ing.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte has an­nounced the city gov­ern­ment would give an­other P5,000 on top of the DA in­dem­ni­fi­ca­tion.

As of Tues­day, the Davao City Ve­teri­nar­ian’s Of­fice (CVO) said it had com­pleted de­pop­u­lat­ing the two barangays of its swine pop­u­la­tion, a to­tal of 2,343 heads. CVO head Dr. Cere­lyn Pinili said all af­fected hog rais­ers were given fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance as soon as they turned over their pigs to the au­thor­i­ties.

“We en­sured that the rais­ers will re­ceive the as­sis­tance im­me­di­ately af­ter they turned over their pigs. We don’t want them to wait for…many days,” Pinili said.

The out­break

ON the last Fri­day of Jan­uary, Don Marcelino town, some 41 kilo­me­ters south of the Davao Oc­ci­den­tal cap­i­tal of Malita, was abuzz with ac­tiv­i­ties by the lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and the regional of­fices of the de­part­ment and nine other na­tional gov­ern­ment agen­cies af­ter Mayor Michael Maruya locked down his town against the exit and en­try of live pigs and pork prod­ucts.

In his so­cial-me­dia post on Jan­uary 31, the mayor or­dered a “24/7 tem­po­rary lock­down of sell­ing and buy­ing pigs fol­low­ing the mor­tal­ity of about 1,000 heads of swine in eight barangays, namely Li­nadasan, North Lami­dan, South Lami­dan, Calian, Mabuhay, Lawa, Nueva Villa and Balun­taya.”

He said swine deaths have been con­tin­u­ing but did not say when the in­fec­tion started.

The tem­po­rary lock­down was rec­om­mended by DA’s Re­gion 11 of­fice and the Pro­vin­cial Ve­teri­nar­ian Of­fice as a mea­sure to con­trol the spread of the ASF and to en­sure the safety of the con­sumers on the con­sump­tion of pork prod­ucts in Don Marcelino.

Also on that day, Regional Di­rec­tor Liza Mazo of the Of­fice of Civil De­fense ac­ti­vated a task force and di­rected nine na­tional gov­ern­ment agen­cies and the dis­as­ter risk-re­duc­tion and man­age­ment of­fices of the six prov­inces and one city of the Davao Re­gion to co­or­di­nate with the DA all in­for­ma­tion and re­sults of ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The Of­fice of Civil De­fense (OCD) also or­dered the pro­vin­cial po­lice, barangay cap­tains and other con­cerned of­fices to en­sure the es­tab­lish­ment of “24/7 an­i­mal quar­an­tine check­points” in var­i­ous en­try points of Don Marcelino mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

The res­i­dents were also in­formed of the sit­u­a­tion and were asked to co­op­er­ate.

Within that week and a few days later, be­lated re­ports reach­ing the of­fice of Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Wil­liam Dar showed at­tempts to by­pass the lock­down pro­to­col, even as the scope of the lock­down was fur­ther widened by the pro­vin­cial gover­nor when in­fec­tion reached neigh­bor­ing towns—a sur­prise, as it had been thought all the while that the in­cur­sion was still con­fined to Don Marcelino.

The Sarangani and Gen­eral San­tos City quar­an­tine check­points es­tab­lished since last year have re­ported of Davao Oc­ci­den­tal hog traders at­tempt­ing to sneak out live pigs into Sarangani through the less fre­quented and cir­cuitous Jose Abad San­tos-Glan bor­der high­way. They were turned back by check­point per­son­nel, how­ever.

One at­tempt by hog traders from Su­lop town of Davao Oc­ci­den­tal’s ad­join­ing prov­ince of Davao del Sur suc­ceeded in trans­port­ing 42 pigs to Koron­adal City, the cap­i­tal of South Cota­bato, through the usual Davao del SurGen­eral San­tos City high­way.

Quar­an­tine per­son­nel do­ing back-trac­ing of the trans­port of pigs were led to the Koron­adal City hold­ing area of the newly trans­ported pigs. Lab­o­ra­tory sam­ples taken from the pigs showed 11 of them were pos­i­tive for the ASF virus.

Im­me­di­ately, Su­lop Mayor Jimmy Sa­garino closed the auc­tion mar­ket in Su­lop; its pigs were sourced from the in­fected Malita and Don Marcelino towns of Davao Oc­ci­den­tal. The DA could not im­me­di­ately as­cer­tain if the con­tam­i­na­tion has spread to other towns.

So far, the con­tam­i­na­tion sur­faced in two north­ern barangays of Davao City, in Dominga and La­manan, on the same week as the Don Marcelino in­fec­tion. The DA said the first in­di­ca­tion of ASF­caused deaths was re­ported on Jan­uary 27.

The virus

THE World Or­gan­i­sa­tion for An­i­mal Health said the se­vere vi­ral dis­ease is re­spon­si­ble for se­ri­ous pro­duc­tion and eco­nomic losses in in­fected coun­tries, mostly in Asia.

It de­scribed the ASF as a trans­bound­ary an­i­mal dis­ease that can be spread by live or dead pigs, do­mes­tic or wild, and pork prod­ucts. “Fur­ther­more, trans­mis­sion can also oc­cur via con­tam­i­nated feed and fomites [non-liv­ing ob­jects] such as shoes, clothes, ve­hi­cles, knives, equip­ment. etc., due to the high en­vi­ron­men­tal re­sis­tance of ASF virus.”

No ap­proved vac­cine has been de­vel­oped yet against the ASF, un­like the clas­si­cal swine fever, or the hog cholera, which is caused by a dif­fer­ent virus. His­tor­i­cally, out­breaks have been re­ported in Africa and parts of Europe, South Amer­ica and the Caribbean. Since 2007, the or­ga­ni­za­tion said the dis­ease has been re­ported in mul­ti­ple coun­tries across Africa, Asia and Europe, in both do­mes­tic and wild pigs.

Dar said the spread of the virus in Don Marcelino town, which has a swine pop­u­la­tion of 14,087 heads, was mainly through swill feeds, lo­cally called lamaw. How­ever, Dr. Ron­nie Domingo, di­rec­tor of the Bureau An­i­mal In­dus­try, said the virus in­fec­tion may have been caused by some­one trans­port­ing in­fected pigs from Pampanga, Bu­la­can in Lu­zon, in­clud­ing Que­zon City, in the na­tional cap­i­tal, or by the unchecked swill be­ing shipped from In­done­sia.

He said In­done­sia may be an Is­lamic na­tion, but the eastern side of the coun­try is pop­u­lated by Chris­tians from where the ship­ment may have orig­i­nated through in­di­vid­ual con­tacts.

Dar ap­pealed to lo­cal gov­ern­ment en­forcers and house­holds to re­frain from rais­ing pigs anew in their back­yards. He said a sen­tinel grow­ing pro­gram should be ob­served: rest the dis­in­fected ar­eas around where the pigs were buried for at least 30 days. Then the house­hold may start a trial rais­ing of pigs, to be reg­u­larly tested. And, if there would be no more sign of in­fec­tion, then the rais­ing of pigs in herds may start again.

“Fam­i­lies should not raise pigs im­me­di­ately af­ter deculling,” he said.


IN Davao City, Dr. Pinili im­posed a quar­an­tine pro­hi­bi­tion on city per­son­nel in­volved in the culling of pigs. They must re­frain from vis­it­ing other barangays for the next three days. All ve­hi­cles and other lo­gis­tics they used must first be thor­oughly dis­in­fected.

She said dis­in­fec­tion would con­tinue daily for 30 days.

The city gov­ern­ment, how­ever, gave as­sur­ances that pork would still be around, but ad­vised con­sumers to look for the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the Na­tional Meat In­spec­tion Com­mis­sion which must be dis­played in mar­ket stalls.

A woman stall owner in the Min­tal mar­ket showed the Busi­ness­Mir­ror a copy of the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and gave as­sur­ances that all the other pork sell­ers were com­ply­ing with the city gov­ern­ment re­quire­ment.

“These are from the cor­po­rate grow­ers of pigs,” she told Busi­ness­Mir­ror on Mon­day.

Dar said it was for­tu­nate that in the case of the pigs trans­ported from the auc­tion mar­ket in Su­lop to a hold­ing area in Koron­adal, there was no in­di­ca­tion that the virus had spread in the sur­round­ing barangays af­ter sev­eral days of mon­i­tor­ing.

“But the report from Sarangani only shows that res­i­dents in in­fected Davao Oc­ci­den­tal made at­tempts to by­pass lock­down pro­to­cols and at­tempted to smug­gle them out,” he said. This ac­tion threat­ens the fur­ther spread of the dis­ease if unchecked.

The sit­u­a­tion also in­di­cated that vig­i­lance should be re­vived anew, es­pe­cially among the lo­cal gov­ern­ments, which main­tain these quar­an­tine check­points. He said the DA and its at­tached agen­cies only pro­vide aug­men­ta­tion and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance.

“I am ap­peal­ing now to all lo­cal gov­ern­ments across the coun­try, not only in the Davao re­gion and the rest of Min­danao,” he said. “Ev­ery­body must now be up on their feet and en­sure that there would be no more spread and in­cur­sion any­where else.”

Sarangani has in­creased its num­ber of quar­an­tine check­points and these were es­tab­lished along its eastern and north­ern bound­aries with Davao del Sur and Davao Oc­ci­den­tal. “We are still ASFfree—but for now,” said Sarangani ve­teri­nar­ian Bernard Caba­bat.

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