Eastern Visayas remains one of the seven regions in the country still free from African swine fever (ASF), the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Thursday.
Dr. Ernestine Ibañez, DA Eastern Visayas ASF coordinator, said this means that the region can transport live hogs and swine products anywhere in the country but accept shipments only from other non-affected areas.
Other ASF-free regions are Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Caraga, Zamboanga, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“Pork consumption here is safe. We have local production here and we no longer accept shipments from Luzon,” Ibañez said in a phone interview.
To control and eradicate the disease in the country, all local government units (LGUs) were ordered to strictly implement the national zoning and movement plan for the prevention and control of ASF.
Ibañez said the strategy establishes zones in the country depending on the level of risks of an area to ASF that has struck mostly backyard farms in Luzon.
“So far, all six provinces in the region are proactive in implementing the directive from the central government by issuing executive orders to regulate the entry of live swine and all pork products to the region,” she added.
Apart from the zoning strategy, the agriculture department has also crafted information materials on ASF prevention translated into local dialects and intensified surveillance to monitor unusual swine mortalities or those manifesting symptoms.
Pigs affected by ASF usually manifest high fever, distinct hyperemic (reddish) area on the skin of the neck, chest, and extremities, and bleeding of internal organs that could lead to sudden death within two to 10 days.
Ibañez said they also geo-tag animals to trace swine movements and conduct on-the-spot monitoring and surveillance in markets for laboratory testing.
She added that although the virus does not cause disease to humans, infected animals are unfit for consumption under the Food Safety Act.
With the support of LGUs, the DA regional office here assured that it would continue to strengthen the implementation of plant and quarantine protocols, observance of biosecurity measures, and activation of quick response teams against crop or livestock pests and disease outbreaks.
“We urge LGUs to implement their own initiatives to protect the swine industry and eradicate the disease in the country such as the establishment of checkpoints to monitor entry of live hogs and other pork products. Likewise, we remind the public to be vigilant in buying processed pork products,” Ibañez said.
The region’s population needs about 200,000 heads of swine a year.
Most of the pork meat here is produced by local farmers and traders from General Santos City, the DA said. (PNA)