Closer DA, LGU ties needed vs animal disease spread


The Department of Agriculture (DA) intends to orient local government units (LGU) on protocols to contain the spread of animal diseases such as African swine fever (ASF) to avert problems in the future, its official said on Friday.

“What I suggest is to brief [LGUs] what our protocol is to avoid a repeat. The best example of this is Cebu. The province’s [officials] got angry because they were not aware of the protocols in place. [Raising hogs] is their livelihood,” Agriculture Assistant Secretary Rex Estoperez said in an interview.

“What should we do? [We have to apply the] lessons learned, and review the LGUs on the existing protocols so they will know about them,” he said.

Estoperez admitted the agency encountered difficulties in awareness campaign on preventing ASF which contributed to the problem.

It can be recalled that in March, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia sued DA and Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) officials due to the supposed lapses in handling ASF cases in the province.

Cebu City complaint

Based on the complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas, these officials should be held accountable for violating Republic Act No. 3019 or Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, RA 7160 or Local Government Code and the New Civil Code.

Garcia claimed the BAI announced a swine fever outbreak in Carcar City without validating if the virus is indeed ASF. Likewise, the governor said the BAI “indiscriminately” culled all pigs within 500 meters from the affected area.

The culling of pigs in Barangay Can-asujan resulted in losses in the livelihood of hog raisers in the area, according to Garcia.

Garcia also said BAI personnel continued to implement the culling and zoning map policy in the entire province even after she issued two separate orders to halt the culling of pigs pending an analysis of properly secured samples, and reminded government agencies to coordinate with and ensure the participation of local governments in implementing projects or policies.

Prior to this, the BAI stated the protocols are evidence-based actions and proven to be the best option for the country sans an approved vaccine against ASF.

“We understand that the affected farmers are sacrificing their livelihood and we appreciate their selflessness to follow the protocols in place. This sacrifice does not go in vain as we work diligently and work hand in hand with you, our stakeholders, in protecting the hog industry,” the BAI said in a statement.

Based on the BAI’s latest tally, the number of active ASF cases stand at five regions, five provinces, 18 municipalities and 31 barangays of as May 10.

—Jordeene B. Lagare INQ

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