NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
Bohol has again been put on lockdown, banning the entry of all hogs and pork products banned from Mindanao at the height of African Swine Flu (ASF) outbreak in Region XI (Davao Region).
Provincial veterinarian, Dr. Stella Marie Lapiz, called for cooperation of the mayors, especially in coastal towns and Tagbilaran City in the implementation of the ban, as she warned that the P6-Billion hog industry of Bohol is at stake.
The ban is now in effect by virtue of Executive Order 5 issued by Acting Gov. Rene Relampagos on February 4.
Relampagos cited in the EO that “the recently affected area and the mainland Mindanao is considered a major threat considering its proximity and accessibility to the island Province of Bohol”.
This is the reason “the province of Bohol is pursuing all efforts to prevent the entry of the ASF virus into the province to safeguard the hog industry and food security benefitting Bohol and the entire country,” according to Relampagos.
Lapiz, for her part, explained that “ASF may not necessarily be of public health importance, but it is of economic importance because ASF will not hit humans but will endanger our P6-Billion hog industry in Bohol”.
“It would surely hurt our backyard hog raisers who are supplying 85 percent of the food supply in the province. I just want to inform everyone that the ASF is nearing Bohol,” according to Lapiz.
EO 5 prohibits the entry into the province of Bohol, of live hogs and frozen boar semen from the mainland of Mindanao with or without documents; of frozen pork meat and pork-related products and by-products, processed pork meat and pork related products, whether cooked or uncooked, canned pork products and pork related products, with or without documents, from the mainland of Mindanao; and of feeds sourced and produced in the specific affected areas confirmed by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).
The ban remains in effect until such time it is expressly lifted by the provincial government.
It is noted in the EO that the ASF “is a present and continuing threat to the hog industry of the country, in general, and in the province of Bohol, in particular”.
It is also noted that, in fact, “on February 2, BAI confirmed that the ASF disease has reached Region XI (Davao Region) after the death of 1,000 pigs”.
Lapiz also shared to the mayors of Bohol during a meeting on February 6 at the Capitol that the before, authorities in affected areas in Davao Occidental- -such as in the town of Don Marcelino- -they had already culled 13,000 pigs.
“If that (13,000 pigs) will be multiplied at P5,000 per head, we would lose around P65 million. If that will be paid by the government, that is how big the expense will be. That is only for one town,” according to Lapiz.
She also shared that her fellow provincial veterinarians in other provinces had discussed in their group chats in Facebook Messenger that there had been a number of affected hog raisers who had been given such indemnification.
For the affected hog raisers in the town of Don Marcelino, the Department of Agriculture assured to pay ₱5,000 per head of a culled pig, regardless of age, and will provide ₱30,000 worth of loans.
Lapiz said it would drain the government coffers if the spread of ASF is not intercepted at ports of entry.
On this, she urged the mayors, especially those in towns with seaports, to help in the implementation of the strict quarantine measures, particularly at the ports of Jagna and Tagbilaran City where there are regular trips from Mindanao.
The Office of the Provincial Veterinarian (OPV) already installed power sprayers so that all vehicles from Mindanao entering the province from through roll-on roll-off vessels will be sprayed even if not carrying live animals, considering that it is possible these vehicles had been roaming around the areas in Mindanao.
Pork products and live animals from Cebu are exempted from the ban, as long as they have the documents.
So far, based on the quarantine reports, no live animals from Mindanao had entered Bohol since October 2019, Lapiz said.
However, there were still meat from Mindanao that had entered the province during such a period as these had been supplied to hotels in Panglao.
On this, Lapiz clarified that starting last Friday, there had been a total ban on pork and related products from Mindanao.
She asked the mayors to help the OPV monitor establishments selling meat, and processed and frozen products from Luzon and Mindanao in their areas and report them to the OPV so that OPV personnel can be sent immediately to explain to the establishment owners about the ban.
Lapiz also shared the theory that the ASF virus that is affecting the Davao Region now definitely came from Indonesia.
This is considering that from Luzon to Mindanao, it has not hit the Visayas yet, which means that the infection did not come from Luzon.
The theory is that the infection, pending word from BAI, is coming from Indonesia, Lapiz said.
“The latest country hit by ASF is Indonesia. And Don Marcelino, which is a coastal municipality, regularly have tugboats, fishing vessels from Indonesia. They also have stores there, selling Ma-Ling which could longer have sales in Indonesia. Kay dili naman mahalin sa Indonesia so gibaligya pod didto,” Lapiz shared.
Taking as a lesson learned, the experience in Luzon and Mindanao, Lapiz suggested that cases of sick pigs should immediately be reported to the OPV so that they could be culled right at the farm and the hog raiser would be indemnified right then; then the area would immediately be cordoned so that the virus will not have an opportunity to spread.
“This is a lesson learned from Luzon and Mindanao. Can you, please, immediately report, because what happened in Mindanao was that it was yet in November that pigs had died one by one but were not reported immediately. Maybe it was because there was no technician nearby or blood samples were taken from sick pigs but it took time to get the result of the test. Before the result came, they hurriedly sold the pigs. When the result came, the pig was no longer there,” according to Lapiz.
Lapiz requested Provincial Administrator Kath Pioquinto to make available, standby funds so that when the OPV receives a report of a sick pig, and upon examination by the veterinarian, an initial test will be conducted, the hog raiser would be indemnified right at the farm. Then, the area will be cordoned immediately.
“Imagine, just in one town, they had to cull 13,000 heads to be indemnified by the government at P5,000 per head, we cannot afford that,” Lapiz said, citing the case in Don Marcelino.
She said the best way is to implement proactive measures.