ILOILO CITY – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has continued to intensify its efforts down to the barangay level to raise awareness on the need to prevent the entry of the African swine fever (ASF) in Western Visayas.
“The ground zero is at the barangay level. There is a need for the involvement of barangay people, barangay officials, and volunteers,” Engr. Remelyn Recoter, regional executive director of DA Western Visayas, said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
She said this coming April 6, they will be having a regionwide online orientation on the Bantay ASF sa Barangay (BABay ASF) as well as on the swine repopulation program.
Recoter said stakeholders, local government units (LGUs), private swine raisers as well as chairpersons of the committee on agriculture of the Sangguniang Panlungsod and Sangguniang Bayan were invited to join the orientation.
“The expectation is for local government units to pass an ordinance creating a task force and Bantay ASF sa Barangay,” she added.
Following the launching of the BABay ASF program in Banga, Aklan last March 11, Recoter said a training handled by the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) for biosecurity officers who were recruited in coordination with local government units (LGUs) is ongoing.
Recoter said they will be identifying volunteers to be deputized as barangay biosecurity officers with provincial veterinarians as the project lead in the implementation of the program.
BABay ASF targets to create an effective ASF monitoring, surveillance, and reporting system, to intensify the practice of biosecurity measures in all hog farms, and to assist in recovering the industry.
The regional executive director said the threat of the ASF to Western Visayas is enormous, especially that Masbate, the latest province to record ASF cases, is very near to the region.
She said Western Visayas is accessible through fishing, passenger, and pump boats from Masbate through coastal areas of Capiz, northern Iloilo, and probably Aklan and northern Negros.
The nearest is Roxas City in Capiz and Estancia and Concepcion in Iloilo.
“There is a need to intensify efforts at the barangay level and for residents to cooperate,” Recoter said.
The BABay ASF campaign was launched as the region moves to protect its more than PHP20 billion hog industry.
Recoter added that it is part of the “whole of nation” approach in reviving the hog industry and reducing the pork prices because ASF had affected several major swine-producing regions in the country.
The department will also embark on swine repopulation where commercial and backyard hog raisers from the green zone, including Western Visayas, can acquire loans from the Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines, and Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC).
Recoter said they have requested for the realignment of their 2020 savings likewise allocated funds from the 2021 budget of the Livestock Program for the repopulation and establishment of multiplier farms and restocking in Western Visayas.
Western Visayas shipped 70,000 live hogs to Luzon last year and 50,000 heads as of March this year.
Meantime, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo on March 23 passed Provincial Ordinance No. 2021-250 banning the entry of livestock transport carriers and hog vans to the province without disinfection certificate and/or ASF-free certificate from the point of origin or port of exit. Also not allowed are live pig, boar semen, pork, and pork products, including food items containing pork originating from manufactured and/or processed in areas affected by ASF.
Capiz, on the other hand, has required that fishing boats from Masbate be issued a veterinary health certificate by the Bureau of Animal Industry to make sure they do not bring with them ASF-contaminated pork to the province. (PNA)