Saving the swine industry from ASF

By: Atty. Ruphil F. Bañoc September 27,2019 - 07:49 AM

It is crystal clear and settled as explained by health authorities that it is safe to eat pork. The African Swine Fever (ASF) can only affect swines, not humans. There is nothing to worry about. 

Even with the confirmation of the Department of Agriculture that ASF has entered Rizal, Quezon City and Bulacan areas in Luzon, but at least it is only confined within the said areas. The additional effort to be done now is to ensure that it will not spread further to other areas. Good that our country is an archipelago, there is a natural bio-security, so at least the spread of the disease is not easy. 

So what cause the panic? Is someone overreacting,  as alleged by Department of Agriculture  Secretary William Dar? Is somebody underreacting as alleged by Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia? What about the reported conflict between former DA Secretary Manny Pinol and current DA Secretary William Dar amidst the ASF crisis?  

Are these things not the ones causing noise in the media? Are the exchanges of utterances not the ones misleading the people that ASF is detrimental? Why not devote enough time to proper information campaign on ASF instead? 

Now that Dar is the present secretary he should not engage in crossing swords with his predecessor anymore. He should refrain from making contradictory statements with other government officials, like Gov. Garcia. Instead, he needs their cooperation because it is now his call. 

Being the DA secretary, it must be clear to the minds of Dar and his people that if ASF will spread to the other part of the country, the P260 billion hog industry will certainly die. The amount can cause inflation, according to economic experts. So while there is no cure yet discovered for this kind of swine disease, at least the problem will be confined only in certain areas in Luzon. 

Hence, Gov. Garcia and Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap, in issuing their executive orders for total ban on pork and pork related products coming from Luzon are justifiable.  Garcia has to protect the P10 billion hog industry in Cebu and Yap has to protect the P6 billion swine industry in Bohol. 

According to experts, it will take 5 to 10  years to recover or repopulate after an ASF attack.  What a terrible consequence! True, it has nothing to do with the human health, but it can kill the swine industry. 

Consequently, it can affect people who rely in the industry for their livelihood. As per data, in Cebu alone it will affect to 670,000 households in its 44 local government units. Could you imagine how many are affected in the whole country? 

I wonder when I heard the news that no less than Dar called up Governors Garcia and Yap and told them 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. Good that the two governors stood firm to their stand on total ban. 

I can only surmise why Dar was able to say it to the two governors. First, he might not have enough technical know-how on ASF. Second, he might be under pressure from businessmen in Luzon areas so that their hogs can still be sold in the rest of the country. 

In either case, Dar is wrong. For government to take concrete action against the spread of ASF, it is important that its point persons especially Dar must be knowledgeable on the issue. If he lacks it, he should ask the experts in his department to brief him on the matter. 

Only after having a deep understanding of the problem that he can make a concrete action that will trickle down to the subordinates in his department.  So far, government’s actions through the DA are still half-cooked. This was the comment I heard from the people in the swine industry. 

On the other hand, if he is under pressure from other sectors, he should always think of the general welfare. It has been reported though that Garcia and Dar already met and ironed out their differences. 

I hope Dar is now enlightened by Garcia’s stand on the issue. The latter is correct when she said that “If we must err, let us err on the side of caution.”

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