Cases of African Swine Fever surge in Cam Sur

Bicol Standard file photo

PILI, CSur—The Department of Agriculture has confirmed the new cases of African Swine Fever in some municipalities and one city here, along with one town in Camarines Norte, and one in Albay.

According to the DA, these were recorded just as the office was gearing up for the declaration of ASF-free status in some towns.

The new cases confirmed by laboratory tests are from nine municipalities and one city in the region: 3-in Milaor; 8 in Minalabac; 20 in Bula; 11 in   Pili; 4  in Nabua, 1 in Iriga City; 2 in Baao, 3 in San Fernando—all in Camarines Sur; 3 in Sta. Elena in Camarines Norte and 1 in Pio Duran, Albay. 

Based on the field investigation report, the case in Sta. Elena was likely a spillover from the adjacent town of Calauag, Quezon, where a river traverses through the boundary.

 The case in Pio Duran, meanwhile, was a spillover from Camarines Sur, where pigs from infected municipalities were clandestinely transported through newly-opened routes connecting  the two provinces.

In the assessment on the sudden spike of new cases, DA Regional Quick Response Team on ASF and other  Emerging Animal Diseases presided by  Regional Technical Director for Regulations and Research Dr. Edgar R. Madrid said a possible reason is the influx of viajeros from outside the region who have contacts or agents in the municipalities. These contacts or agents, per the same assessment, typically buy live pigs at a price higher than what the local buyers offer. 

Further, these agents establish holding or pooling pens where pigs bought from different municipalities are temporarily held while awaiting for the viajeros to pick them up.

The DA team discovered that these viajeros  would  bring their carrier trucks  and linger  in an uninfected  municipality  and therein purchase some healthy pigs and secure  veterinary health certificates for the healthy pigs they bought.

This is while waiting for their agents to bring  in the pigs  bought by their agents  from infected municipalities. 

The DA further reported that many local government units have already dismantled their local checkpoints, citing that their funds are already depleted due to COVID-related interventions.

Meanwhile, some LGUs were noted to be lenient and slow in the implementation of mandatory depopulation measures in the barangays. They cite as reasons the unavailability of supplies and machinery such as disinfectant, lime, and backhoe, as well as the difficulty of identifying a disposal site, which has to be approved by the DENR.

Clandestine slaughtering and selling of pigs in ASF areas also persists, said the DA in its report.

With these recent developments, a virtual meeting between the DA and the local chief executives has been set to discuss the concerns and measures to stem the spread of ASF in Bicol. 

To date, DA Bicol has already paid P45,510 million in  indemnification  for 9,102 depopulated pigs owned by 1,738 farmers in the  first   ten municipalities  affected by the  ASF.  In addition it has  extended  an assistance  package consisting of  3,720 heads of  free-range chicken and mallard ducks  to 364  ASF-affected farmers who did not qualify for indemnification  It has further requested  the Bureau of Animal Industry  for the next tranche of release  of indemnification funds. (With report from EMILY B. BORDADO /DA-RAFIS5)