Duterte declares state of calamity due to ASF

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - May 12, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Citing the more than P100 billion in losses to the local hog sector and related industries, President Duterte has placed the entire country under a state of calamity due to the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF).

Under Proclamation 1143 issued on Monday and released yesterday, the President said the state of calamity would be effective for one year unless lifted earlier or extended as the need arises.

”All government agencies and local government units are enjoined to render full assistance and cooperation... and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent and appropriate measures in a timely manner to curtail the further spread of ASF, address the supply of deficit in pork products, reduce retail prices and jumpstart the rehabilitation of the local hog industry,” the proclamation read.

“There is an urgent need to address the continued spread of ASF... and ensure the availability, adequacy and affordability of pork products... for the purpose of attaining food security,” it said.

ASF has spread to 12 regions, 46 provinces, 893 towns and cities and 2,571 barangays since 2019, with new cases being reported despite government interventions. Nearly three million pigs have been culled.

With the declaration of a state of calamity, the national government and local government units can utilize appropriate funds to contain the spread of the swine disease and restore normalcy in affected areas.

Higher pork imports

As this developed, the President signed Executive Order 133, which increases the minimum access volume (MAV) of pork imports.

The EO hikes the MAV of pork this year from 54,210 metric tons to 254,210 MT, “provided that any unavailable balance shall not be carried over to 2022.”

“It is imperative to immediately address the current supply gap in pork meat to provide consumers with adequate and affordable food and to lower the inflation rate,” the EO declared.

Duterte directed the MAV management committee to ensure that the allocation of the volume importation is “fair and open” to all qualified importers of pork meat and in accordance with existing rules and regulations.

Senators welcomed the declaration and urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other government agencies to immediately carry out the objectives of the proclamation.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who authored the resolution urging Duterte to declare a state of national calamity, said the DA and concerned local government units should act quickly in disbursing calamity and quick response funds.

“Now, the real work begins. This is the declaration of war against ASF that pig farmers have long been waiting for. Recognizing that there is a calamity is one thing, ending it is another,” Sen. Joel Villanueva said.

Long overdue

Hog raisers said they welcome the declaration of a state of calamity, which they consider as ”long overdue.”

“We hope that we can work with the proper government agency in the use of the calamity funds. That will be transparent and given to legitimate pork producers that are affected by ASF,” Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc. president Edwin Chen said in a Viber message.

Meat Importers and Traders Association president Jess Cham said he hopes the increase in the MAV is enough to meaningfully impact the market.

“Should an additional MAV be necessary, we hope that the Senate will go along,” Cham said.

Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura chairman Rosendo So said the declaration is a “moral victory” not only for the local hog industry but also for the entire agriculture sector. – Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Catherine Talavera

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