Our country is very dirty, it is a haven of many viruses
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - September 23, 2019 - 12:00am

When the Department of Agriculture confirmed the first outbreak of African Swine Fever in the country a couple of weeks ago, the public went on a panic frenzy, totally removing pork from their daily meals. Hog farmers killed their pigs and threw them away in haste as directed by city officials. The news surely caused alarm. Many farmers and businesses have been affected unnecessarily.

The affected areas in Bulacan, Rodriguez and Antipolo had 7,416 hogs culled since August 18 as a preventive measure prior to the announcement of the outbreak. In fact, quarantine measures have already been tightened to prevent the spread of the virus in pigs. Both Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar and Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III assured the public that the ASF is not a threat to human health.

Dr. Eugene P. Mende known as the “Supervet” who took his Masters in Swine Infectious Disease in the Biomedical Program of the University of Minnesota’s Swine Disease Eradication Center, a Philippine College of Swine Practitioners (PCSP) diplomate, a TOYM 2017 awardee for Veterinary Medicine and who contributed a US patented research on a vaccine and antibody detection and diagnostic kit designed to control “the biggest and most economically damaging swine virus infection in the world” said that: It is safe to eat pork! Humans have no receptors to the African Swine Fever (or ASF) virus and so the virus will not thrive or replicate in the human body. The ASF virus has been discovered and characterized since 1907 in Africa. It has emerged and re-emerged in Europe but never has there been a human case of any infection since the virus was isolated.

He said that even if the pork eaten is infected or contaminated with the ASF virus, humans will not be affected. The ASF virus is not airborne and up to today there is no scientific document that would prove that it is carried by insects like flies and mosquitos present in Asia especially in the Philippines. Comparing the virus to Hog Cholera at FMD which is airborne, we can stop the ASF virus from getting into the system of the pigs. A pig would have to eat almost 10,000 virus particles before it gets infected. 

Hog farmers must know biosecurity protocols such as 1-7-10 quarantine to stop the spread of the virus in pigs. They must focus on the more dangerous risks that may infect the pigs: 1) Do not feed the pigs with left-overs from restaurants; 2) Promote and use our local meat products. (ASF is imported. The virus may have come from imported meats. Avoid imported meats especially the ones coming from countries with ASF); 3) Strengthen the right biosecurity. A hog raiser must go through a footbath with disinfectant before going out of the pigpen. Farm equipment or vehicles used and left with blood or feces that encourage virus to thrive must be cleaned and disinfected properly; 4) Know the right information. Do not panic!

The latest scientific updates about the African Swine Fever virus will be presented at the 2019 Pinoy Pork Challenge on October 2, 2019 at the Novotel Hotel in Cubao. I hope that government and city officials aside from hog raisers will attend this information-driven event to stop the madness going on.

Calling all mayors who drastically killed the pigs around town! Know your facts first before pressing the panic button. Do your job wisely! Let us not jump into conclusions without understanding the problem. Your job is to save day. Stop agitating the public unnecessarily.

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Another health concern the country is facing today is the polio outbreak. After having been declared polio-free in the year 2000, polio has re-emerged. After the Dengvaxia scare, the public started to become skeptical in using vaccines. If only our officials can thoroughly explain the consequences of using or not using such vaccines, like doing an awareness campaign, then the public will not panic and will be able to make the right choices. Instead our officials choose to politicize issues causing our country to fall deeper into the abyss.

Health Secretary Duque III reported that environmental samples from sewage in Tondo, Manila and waterways in Davao City tested positive for poliovirus. Everything goes back to the current state of our country – it is dirty. Very dirty! It has become a haven of viruses. Sanamagan!

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The main source of filth is our major and minor waterways not to mention our garbage disposal systems where we lack incinerators. Who is the responsible one? Who will be the Joan of Arc?

Let’s take the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission’s (PRRC) work for example. Last August 28 President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 90 transferring the chairmanship of the PRRC from the Department of Budget and Management to the DENR. The PRRC is primarily tasked to implement programs and projects aimed at reviving the polluted Pasig River.

It has been 20 years since the Executive Order was signed by then President Estrada. The rehabilitation of the Pasig River should have been completed by now. The Singapore River was rehabilitated in just 10 years. They have NO PRRC! When Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew called for a clean-up of Singapore’s rivers, which included the Singapore River and the Kallang River in 1977, 4,000 squatters were relocated along with hawkers and vegetable sellers, whose daily waste flowed into the river. The clean-up cost the government $300 million. Public housing was found for the squatters, while street hawkers were persuaded to move to hawker centers. The government then dredged foul-smelling mud from the banks and the bottom of the river, clearing the debris and other rubbish.

And now, the Pasig River rehabilitation has been transferred to DENR under the leadership of Roy Cimatu after the president fired PRRC head Jose Antonio E. Goitia over allegations of graft and corruption. So, what has Cimatu done so far? He said that he will implement the 2012 Supreme Court ruling to remove the thousands of squatters along the Pasig River. But the Manila Bay Task Force that he heads has done nothing in the past six months (March-August) despite the millions of pesos allotted for it. He has also vowed to address the garbage problem hounding the Pasig River and its tributaries.

So far, the PRRC has already removed more than 30 million kilograms of solid waste since 2012 through resettlement and daily clean-up activities in the Pasig River and its 47 identified tributaries. There is still so much to be done.

A constant and consistent campaign to keep Pasig River clean must be given a serious thought. Look at Singapore! The river cleanup remains a work-in-progress. Last November 26, 2017, during a speech at the 60th anniversary of Berita Harian, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged Singaporeans not to pollute the river with litter and trash.

Our leaders must realize that it is not enough to follow directives to get things done. What is important is how to sustain and maintain it till the end. But first things first, we must take action before it is too late and find ourselves in the dumps as we seem to be already in.

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