By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Sen. Grace Poe urged concerned authorities to further tighten the country’s patrolling against the entry of meat and meat products contaminated with the African swine fever (ASF), saying its spread could further wreak havoc on the hog industry and push prices up.
“You really have to step up efforts. Hindi pwedeng sabihin na, ‘kasi mga smugglers ‘yan.’ That’s precisely the point of an inspection to tighten those borders to make sure na walang lumalabas na mga smuggled na karne sa merkado,” Poe told Agriculture Secretary William Dar at a Senate hearing on the rising pork prices on Monday.
The senator said government efforts to revitalize the hog industry by offering loans to raisers will be for naught if the threat of the ASF is always around which can wipe out anew their farms and livelihood.
“Maganda na may pondo ang Department of Agriculture (DA) na ipapautang pero there are no takers kasi nga it’s such a big risk kung mahahawa rin ang mga alaga nila. Wala bang force majeure na provision dito para naman kung may pandemya na nahawa ang mga alaga nila, hindi naman sila mabaon sa utang. Meron ba tayong inspection program para rito sa pumapasok na mga karne galing sa ibang bansa?” she asked.
Poe noted that in Iloilo, local authorities are strictly requiring a certificate of inspection to ensure that pork products that will be sold to the public are ASF-free.
She said that both the hog raisers and the vendors have expressed their frustration over the lack of control against the entry of smuggled pork, which may cause the further spread of the highly contagious pig disease.
Reports have said that nearly 70 percent of the hog industry in Luzon have suffered due to ASF, resulting in scarce supply that sent prices soaring, hitting consumers hard.
The DA earlier announced an allocation of P27 billion in loans to commercial hog raisers to restart the hog industry crippled by the ASF. Aside from this, P500 million has also been set aside for the repopulation of backyard raisers, including breeders and multiplier farms.
Poe reiterated programs to reinvigorate the hog industry must go hand-in-hand with strict border controls.
“All hands must be on deck – starting from the DA to the Bureau of Customs down to the local officials and meat traders – to ensure that the swine disease is stopped at the borders,” Poe said. (AI/MTVN)