DA formally requests state of emergency to deal with ASF

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has officially submitted its proposal to President Rodrigo R. Duterte for a state of national emergency to help contain African Swine Fever (ASF).

In a March 17 memorandum, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said he sent a draft proclamation to Malacañang seeking the declaration in order to appropriate funds more rapidly to deal with the emergency, which has reduced hog numbers drastically and caused food prices to rise, threatening another inflation crisis.

Mr. Dar said the DA plans to implement biosecurity measures to help rehabilitate the hog industry. More than three million pigs have died or were culled since the virus was first detected in 2019.

  “The declaration of a state of national emergency would mandate and capacitate concerned government agencies including local government units (LGUs) to work together to prevent and control the further spread of ASF,” Mr. Dar said.

“Over three million pigs have been lost… causing a contraction in pork supply and an unprecedented increase in the price of basic agricultural commodities,” he added.

During a March 9 hearing, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform approved a resolution requesting the DA to recommend a state of emergency declaration.

Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said at the hearing that such a declaration is needed to unlock the funding needed to address ASF.

Mr. Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) No. 124 which set a price ceiling on pork and chicken products.

The EO, issued on Feb. 1 and implemented a week after, temporarily capped the price of pork shoulder (kasim) at P270 per kilogram, pork belly (liempo) at P300 per kilogram, and whole chicken at P160 per kilogram.

The price controls are in place until April 8.

Asked for additional comment, DA Spokesman Noel O. Reyes told reporters in a mobile phone message that he will leave it to the Palace to announce the exact contents of the proclamation, likely after it is signed.

Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura Chairman Rosendo O. So said the priority for the government should be the establishment of border inspection facilities.

“The idea of a state of national emergency is to re-channel funds. The priority should be border inspection facilities. The other (government) programs will be useless if the country does not have those,” Mr. So said in a mobile phone message.

Separately, the private sector has agreed to help the government implement programs to control the spread of ASF and to rebuild the hog inventory.

On March 17, the DA signed a memorandum of understanding with Univet Nutrition and Animal Healthcare Co. (UNAHCO) and other organizations to carry out the hog industry’s rehabilitation.

Signing up for the partnership were the Philippine College of Swine Practitioners; the International Training Center on Pig Husbandry; Pig Improvement Co.; Provimi Philippines; Cargill Philippines, Inc.; Novus International Pte Ltd.; Kemin Industries; Philippine Association of Feed Millers, Inc.; and SGS Philippines.

“I am confident that with this partnership, we can attain our goal of reviving the country’s swine sector, which is very crucial in our food security efforts,” Mr. Dar said during the signing.

According to the DA, UNAHCO will create a working group consisting of its industry partners and coordinate efforts with the Bureau of Animal Industry, National Livestock Program, and DA regional field offices.

They will help in the distribution of breeders, gilt and piglets, and disinfectant, among others.

Ricardo C. Alba, president of UNAHCO, said the company has also launched its own swine repopulation and biosecurity initiatives for backyard hog raisers.

“The extent of ASF has reached alarming proportions and the DA openly welcomes our help. This is a classic example of public and private helping each other,” Mr. Alba said during the signing.

Mr. Dar said LGUs are vital in the successful implementation of the hog repopulation and ASF control programs.

“I wish to reiterate my call on our partners — LGUs, hog industry stakeholders, veterinary associations, universities, and research institutions, farmers’ cooperatives and associations, and backyard and commercial hog raisers — to join us to implement stringent and sustainable biosecurity measures,” Mr. Dar said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) has estimated that the national hog inventory as of Jan. 1 fell 24.1% year on year to 9.72 million animals. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave