STOP the African Swine Fever
STOP the African Swine Fever
Amid financial experts' forecasts of weaker economic growth for 2019, an ASF epidemic which has the potential to wipe out the entire 200 billion Philippine hog industry threatens not only the livelihoods of our backyard pig farmers but puts our economy at great risk as well. Unabated, the effects of ASF to small scale hog raisers who make up around sixty five percent (65 %) of our country’s hog production will be nothing short of devastating. These backyard pig farmers are usually family owned and operated and unorganized therefore their exact number varies but an epidemic as deadly as ASF can adversely affect the lives of millions of Filipinos. They are particularly vulnerable because their families are heavily dependent on pig farming. Compared with deep pocketed commercial growers they are ill equipped to respond to the ASF epidemic and do not have the means to survive this kind of disruption nor the resources to recover from its devastating effects. A depletion of their usually limited operating capital resulting from the culling of ASF infested stocks for example could spell the end for each backyard farmer. The stigma associated with ASF alone has reduced the demand for pork to record lows which in turn drove live weight prices by as much as 20% resulting in a significant loss to backyard farmers. Despite implementing its 1-7-10 protocol, the Department of Agriculture has so far been unable to prevent ASF from spreading to other parts of the country. To date, the DA has ordered the culling of about 20,000 pigs at a pegged cost to farmers of 3,000 per head. Due to the lack of clear and specific directives from the national government, local executives from Cebu, Davao and others were forced to issue orders banning the entry of pigs and pork from other parts of the country. While this can provide backyard farmers some protection from further ASF contamination, this could have the unintended consequence of depressing supply resulting in a pork shortage especially during the coming holiday season. Ironically, the importation of meat products including pork goes on unchecked despite being blamed as the culprit for the entry of ASF into the country. We hope and pray that by highlighting these issues, we can live up to our civic duties by becoming part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. On behalf of all backyard pig farmers, we hereby submit this petition to you, Mr. President, hoping that you can give us your attention and time to consider the following recommendations and act in a decisive and timely manner to help save our families and communities from certain financial ruin, STOP ASF and finally make our country ASF FREE.
1. Enforcement: For the DA to task regional, provincial, city and other responsible law enforcement officials to strictly impose the restriction on the transportation of live pigs, pork and pork products outside a 10-kilometer radius of an identified ASF hot spot and file applicable charges for traders engaged in the transportation of banned products in violation of DA or local government quarantine directives.
2. Quarantine. For the DA to assign a 24-7 field monitoring team at each ASF hotspot to strictly observe and enforce its 1-7-10 protocol to eliminate the possibility of further ASF contamination by ensuring the strict enforcement of a quarantine within 10 km of a known ASF hotspot.
3. Bio-Security. For all hog producers to observe and enforce strict bio-security measures within and around its facilities. For the DA, as an adjunct to its 1-7-10 protocol, to dispatch an emergency response team to disinfect/fumigate all hog growing and associated facilities within the 10 km. radius of a known ASF hotspot within 24 hours of receiving a report though the DA ASF hotline.
4. Culling. For the DA to increase its pegged cost for culled pigs based on actual age adjusted cost; 1) 3,000 for piglets and gilts up to 60 days old and 2) 5,000 for pigs over 60 days old. While the DA has pegged the cost of culling affected pigs at 3,000 per head regardless of age and weight, this is barely enough to cover the initial acquisition cost, considering that a 4 to 6 week-old piglet costs about 2,800. While a ready to market pig weighing approx. 100 kg. could gross gross as much as 10,000, fifty to sixty percent of this would have been spent on feeds alone. Discounting labor, water, electricity, medicine, vet services, etc., this translates to a total loss of about 5,000 per head to a backyard farmer under prevailing market prices vs. the DA pegged culled price of 3,000. While this cost may seem reasonable, the DA must increase its pegged cost for culled pigs to increase the odds of a backyard farmer’s chance to survive the ASF epidemic.
5. Importation: For the BOC to strictly enforce the import ban on meat products from ASF infested countries, stop unscrupulous traders from recycling confiscated meat and monitor 24/7 the various ports of entry to detect and intercept any prohibited meat products from entering especially those that are smuggled via our back doors. The BOC must ensure that importers, traders and smugglers alike engaged in these illegal activities are apprehended and meted the appropriate civil and criminal penalties.
6. Funding: For Congress to allocate at least 10 billion towards the Department of Agriculture's all out ASF eradication efforts to fund; 1) a 24/7 ASF Hotline, 2) Emergency Response and/or Fumigation and Mitigation Teams, 3) field/mobile laboratories capable of immediate field sampling and testing of suspected ASF contamination, 4) Quarantine Checkpoints manned by PNP personnel, 5) an ASF Recovery Loan Program and 6) any other applicable measures to stop and eliminate ASF infection. If permissible, these funds could be sourced from current or previous FY tax collections by the BOC from imported meat products somewhat similar with the funding allocation to farmers provided in the Rice Tarrification Law.
7. Congress: For the Senate or the House of Representatives to initiate an inquiry to investigate in aid of legislation so that a determination of the culpable source/s of ASF entry into the country and the identification of the modes of contamination can be made and provide the DA and other pertinent government agencies with specific countermeasures to prevent the entry, stop the spread, and prevent any further occurrence of ASF in the country. Lastly, it must hold those responsible for the entry, infection, transmission and further spread of ASF accountable by filing appropriate civil and criminal charges including economic sabotage.