MANILA, Philippines – The African swine fever (ASF) task force is finalizing the zoning plan to contain and eradicate the highly contagious disease more than two months after it arrived in the Philippines.
ASF task force head Reildrin Morales said in a recent press briefing that they are proposing to declare the entire Visayas, Mindanao, and Mimaropa in Luzon as ASF-free zones. This means that pork products from these areas can be freely traded within the country. (READ: Filipinos shift to chicken and beef as African swine fever spreads)
Meanwhile, Luzon will be considered as a containment zone, where areas with no ASF cases will be protected zones.
Protected zones will likely include the Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, and Cagayan Valley.
Areas with cases of ASF will be considered as infected zones. These regions will have limited access to the pork market and can trade only with other areas that are considered infected zones too.
So far, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has identified Rizal, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Cavite, and Quezon City in Metro Manila as areas with ASF.
The DA has been criticized by several local government units over ASF guidelines, with some provinces and cities unilaterally enforcing total import bans.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government already ordered local officials to lift the ban they had imposed on processed meat products, citing satisfactory measures implemented by the DA.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez also previously asked mayors not to bar the entry of pork items.
Morales said they have already presented their proposal to provincial veterinarians and will make arrangements within the week.
He declined to give further details as to just how binding the zoning plan will be on local government units, as procedures are still being finalized.
Morales also cannot say if President Rodrigo Duterte would enforce it using an executive order, but said that such a plan would need approval higher than the DA and its attached agencies.
The DA is confident that the zoning plan will work, given the Philippines’ eradication of foot and mouth disease.
Moreover, officials noted that the country is composed of thousands of islands, where bodies of water serve as “natural barriers.” Crossing from one island to another would not be as fast compared to movement in landlocked countries, as the ASF virus dies under extreme heat.
So far, the government is implementing the 1-7-10 protocol, where ASF-afflicted pigs and others within the 1-kilometer radius are culled.
Those within the 7-kilometer radius have limited movement, while pigs in the 10-kilometer radius are strictly monitored. – Rappler.com