Still with no ASF zoning plan, DA wants pork bans lifted

Mara Cepeda
'Our eagerness to protect, the intention is good. [But] the process should not actually violate...the privileges of others,' says Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan

OUTBREAK. Barangay volunteers haul culled hogs infected with African swine fever at a piggery in Barangay Pasong Tamo, Quezon City, on October 3, 2019. File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Two months since the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak was declared, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has yet to release its zoning plan to contain and eradicate the highly contagious disease affecting hogs.

Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan instead appealed to governors to lift their “restrictive” bans on live hogs and pork products.

“Let us agree on one condition that our eagerness to protect, the intention is good. [But] the process should not actually violate…the privileges of others,” said Cayanan on Monday, November 25.

“Ang pinakamaganda po kasi dito mag-usap-usap tayong lahat kasama ‘yung mga stakeholders (The best thing to do here is for all of us to talk together with the stakeholders). And of course when I say stakeholders, [I mean] the whole industry),” he added.

Cayanan was speaking before members of the House committee on local government as well as committee on agriculture and food, who wanted to get an update on the status of ASF in the country.

Under the proposed zoning plan, the government’s ASF task force would 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.

But the final parameters of the zoning plan have yet to be ironed out. 

For now, Cayanan urged local government units (LGUs) that have closed off their borders to pork products from other provinces to be open to compromising with the national government and the hog industry.

“But on top of it, sir, we have issuances [so] that they could be guided upon, not necessarily dictated upon, but guided upon. Again, Mister Chair, there [is] already progression [in communicating with these LGUs] and we hope that some of them, for those who have issued restrictive and constrictive [issuances], should be actually following this,” said Cayanan in a mix of English and Filipino.

The DA drew flak from various LGUs over its ASF guidelines, prompting several provinces and cities to unilaterally enforce total import bans. (READ: Filipinos shift to chicken and beef as African swine fever spreads)

Anna Lisa Uy of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines hopes the DA would soon implement its zoning plan, citing how the LGUs’ bans on live hog imports are hurting their business.

“Now that borders are being closed, medyo nahihirapan ang mga hog raisers na mabenta ang kanilang baboy. The other provinces that are non-producing provinces, nahihirapan sila mag-produce ng baboy,” she added. 

(Now that borders are being closed, it’s getting difficult for hog raisers to sell their hogs. The other provinces that are non-producing are finding it hard to produce their own hogs.)

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.

President Rodrigo Duterte already approved the use of funds from his office to compensate hog raisers who have had to kill their hogs due to the ASF infection. (READ: Pork from China caused African swine fever outbreak in Philippines– Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.