"In these trying times, particularly in protecting our shores from the challenges of major diseases such as the ASF, we appeal for unity and brotherhood among our countrymen, most particularly our local chief executives,” Dar said in a statement released yesterday.
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DA asks Cebu, Bohol to reconsider pork ban from Luzon
Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Lorraine Ecarma (The Freeman) - September 22, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar is appealing to political leaders of Bohol and Cebu to reconsider their decision of imposing a total ban on hogs, pork, and processed pork products from Luzon, where some areas tested positive for African Swine Fever (ASF).

"In these trying times, particularly in protecting our shores from the challenges of major diseases such as the ASF, we appeal for unity and brotherhood among our countrymen, most particularly our local chief executives,” Dar said in a statement released yesterday.

Dar asked Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Bohol Governor Arthur Yap to “soften their hearts and allow the transport and trade of ASF-free hogs, pork, pork products and processed food items to and fro their respective provinces.”

Dar made the appeal after Garcia and Yap issued separate directives banning the entry of pork and processed pork products on reports of ASF outbreak in small backyard swine farms in Rizal and Bulacan.

Dar said that DA has repeatedly assured the public that the situation is under proper management, even as it continuously works with concerned local government units, private swine industry leaders, the PNP, and military to effectively manage, control, and contain the threat of ASF.

While the disease does not pose any hazard or risk to humans, and other farm and domesticated animals, the DA chief said the ASF virus is very infectious among pigs, and can easily spread from one farm to another if not properly managed.

The DA also keeps on reminding consumers to buy only pork with the seal of the DA-National Meat Inspection Service, and from reputable meat shops.

Dar also reminded that efforts to protect borders against the dreaded disease should not limit the movement of goods and food supplies, suggesting that any ban should be carefully studied.

He said such “hard position could create repercussions, where other provinces may retaliate by cutting off the food stocks to and fro Cebu and Bohol.”

"We would not like that to happen — isolating and depriving each other from the basic right to food,” Dar said.

Cebu and Bohol are huge markets for pork, processed meat products, and food items due to their burgeoning tourism industries.

DA-7 Director Salvador Diputado said earlier that Cebu is the top pork producer in the Visayas and the fourth in the entire country.

Ban Necessary

At the Cebu Capitol yesterday, Garcia reiterated that the ban is necessary as a preventive measure against the deadly virus.

"I saw that for the ensuing events from the first hog death on July 25 and thereafter how events have quickly unfolded, I am seeing the Department of Agriculture underreacting," Garcia said.

She said the confirmation of an ASF breach is a clear and present danger that threatens the province's swine industry.

"When a virus spreads, from our assessment, then obviously there had not been enough strict measures," she pointed out.

Garcia also stressed that it is her duty as governor to prioritize the general welfare of Cebuanos.

Cebu has a P10 billion hog industry on which famous products like lechon and chicharon depend greatly.

"While I fully understand his position, being the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture... on the other hand, I hope he would also understand my position as Governor of Cebu. As Governor of Cebu, I am tasked to focus first and foremost on the interest if the province," Garcia said.

"Let me assure the good secretary that like him, I have also balanced all of the interests involved," Garcia added.

She said this is the reason why she passed multiple executive orders that adjust the parameters of the ban with every update from DA.

She released EO13, EO13A, and EO14 upon news of the sudden spike in mortality among the swine in areas in Luzon.

Initially, the DA said the ASF has not entered the country but admitted later that the pigs were killed by the virus.

The province then issued EO15 and EO16 that stipulated the total ban against pork, pork-related products, and hogs from Luzon.

The current ban is effective for 100 days but Garcia said this can be extended when the need arises. — JMO (FREEMAN)

AFRICAN SWINE FEVER
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