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Palace: Public protected from profiteering in poultry prices

Abella said the government is monitoring chicken prices and quailty as the Agriculture department deals with a bird flu outbreak in Pampanga. Philstar.com, file
MANILA, Philippines — The price of chicken will stay stable despite the bird flu outbreak in Pampanga, Malacañang said Sunday as it assured the public that efforts are underway to prevent traders from taking advantage of the situation.
 
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the government is closely watching the quality and price of poultry products in the market.
 
“While we assure the public that there would be no price increase in chicken meat as there is only one area affected by the avian flu, we must see to it that [only] uncontaminated meat is sold in the markets,” Abella said in a statement.
 
“Concerned government agencies are now looking at businesses that might take advantage of the situation and are monitoring the price of raw and processed chicken meat in the markets,” he added.
 
Abella said the Agriculture department has acted fast and has managed to isolate and contain the virus. The agency has announced the slaughter of some 200,000 birds in Pampanga to prevent the spread of the disease.
 
The avian flu virus is believed to have started infecting fowls in Pampanga last May but poultry operators were hesitant to report it to authorities. The virus has affected six poultry farms within San Luis town, according to a report submitted to the Bureau of Animal Industry.
 
The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) has said retail prices of chicken meat had decreased to P135 per kilogram from the average P160 per kilogram following the bird flu outbreak. Wholesale prices also went down to P110 per kilogram from P125 per kilogram.
 
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who served as food security czar during the previous administration, has urged the government to monitor the prices of chicken in the market, saying profiteers might hike prices of raw and processed chicken meat.

Culling done by Monday

The DA is now in the process of culling an estimated 200,000 poultry heads — chicken, ducks, quails, pigeons and fighting roosters — in San Luis to prevent the virus from spreading.
 
Pampanga has been in a state of calamity since Friday, which allows the local government access to calamity funds and puts price freezes in place to prevent profiteering.
 
"At most we want to finish the depopulation not later than tomorrow [Monday]. We will be trying to exhaust all our efforts and resources to finish these until tomorrow. We have to understand that we are not only talking about captive birds, we have to cull those stray birds as well," Agriculture undersecretary Ariel Cayanan said in a phone interview.
 
Last Friday, the DA confirmed the outbreak of avian influenza virus (bird flu), the first case for the country. The outbreak has killed close to 40,000 poultry heads and placed the province in a state of calamity.
 
Initial field reports on the culling are still under validation.
 
Cayanan said Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda is shouldering the daily labor cost for the culling process.
 
"She said we can hire as many as we need to fast track depopulation. She will also shoulder all identified logistics all throughout the depopulation period," he added.
 
Test specimens confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5 in San Agustin village in San Luis, Pampanga, killing 37,000 birds covering six farms particularly poultry, quail and ducks.
 
According to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinñol, quarantine officers will disinfect all the six farms after all birds in the area have been culled.
 
'Sentinel birds' and quarantine zones
 
"After 21 days, sentinel birds will be deployed in the affected farms to serve as the basis in determining whether the virus is still present in the area. If the sentinel birds will not show signs of the disease, the quarantine restrictions will be lifted after 90 days," Pinol said.
 
The department maintained that culling the rest of the poultry population in the area is necessary to control the spread of disease in the shortest possible time as the remaining 200,000 may also be infected with bird flu.
 
The Bureau of Animal Industry has already declared a quarantine zone within a one-kilometer radius of the farms where the outbreak was confirmed.
 
Another seven-kilometer radius has been declared as a controlled zone where no fowls, eggs or other products could be brought out.
 
Apart from confining the area, the department has ordered the ban on the shipment of fowls from Luzon to the other parts of the country.
 
"However, the transhipment through the Manila International Airport of chicks, hatching eggs and other fowls from other countries coming into Luzon or other parts of the country will be allowed with the advisory that stringent quarantine protocols must be observed," Pinol said.
 
This means that chicken brought in from the United States intended for shipment to the Visayas or Mindanao may not be taken out of the boxes and must be loaded directly into the connecting flights.

DENR: Avoid migratory birds

On the other hand, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) warned the public on approaching migratory birds in light of fears that the current bird flu outbreak are caused by the birds.
 
"We discourage the killing or poaching of the birds because this could just worsen the situation. Close contact with the birds will risk transmission," DENR-BMB director Mundita Lim said.
 
"We may need to determine the actual strain and do some epidemiological assessments so we can make the proper disease management recommendations, along with the DA and the DOH, in accordance with the creation of an inter-agency committee on zoonosis," she added.
 
Zoonosis is a disease that can be transmitted to humans from animals.
 
There has been no report yet of poultry to human contamination and the DOH assured that virus transmission from animals to humans is low.
 
BAI is now in the process of sending the samples to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, a World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Reference Laboratory for avian influenza for further testing.
 
The DENR explained that the annual bird migration season in the Philippines is expected to start around September (southward migration) and return to their breeding grounds by March in the following year (northward migration).
 
This means that birds stop briefly along wetlands — swamps, marshes, intertidal and coastal areas, rivers, ponds, lakes, as well as forests throughout the country, to rest and refuel for their onward journey.
 
The DENR will also issue a memorandum to all its regional directors to intensify surveillance at airports and seaports pertaining to the smuggling of wild birds.
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