African swine fever: Cebu bans live hog imports from Luzon

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia ordered a complete ban on live hog imports from Luzon after it was confirmed that African swine fever (ASF) was present in 7 areas in Rizal and Bulacan.

"Were only banning live hogs from Luzon, because we have to consider that there might be a shortage of pork if we ban all imported pork," Garcia told reporters on Wednesday, September 11. Aside from banning all live hog imports from Luzon, pork products processed in Rizal and Bulacan are also banned.  

Pork from other Luzon provinces may be imported with additional documentary requirements. 

The ban is effective for the next 100 days, according to Garcia. 

Executive Order 14, first signed by Garcia on August 22, already bans pork and live pigs from foreign countries where ASF is present.

These countries include:

Cebu has both an international airport and a sea port.

An emergency meeting on ASF was called on Tuesday, September 10, to discuss improvement of measures to stop possible infected meat from entering the province. Among the proposals discussed were purchasing dogs to sniff for pork products, adding more signage on the pork ban in airports and sea ports, and adding more scanners to detect pork products.

Earlier in August, Bohol Governor Art Yap had already ordered a 100-day ban on the importation of live pigs, pork, and pork-related products. (READ: Bohol bans importation of live pigs, pork products)

While ASF cannot be transmitted to humans through consumption, the province is worried the entry of the virus could wipe out hog populations and negatively impact the economy of Cebu. The virus is highly contagious and once a population is afflicted, the mortality rate is almost certainly 100%. (READ: FAST FACTS: What is African swine fever?)

Representatives from the hog sector raised concerns that a total ban on pork and live hogs could adversely affect the economy.

According to 6th District Provincial Board Member Glenn Anthony Soco, who heads the committee on commerce and economy, about 15% of live hogs and pork is sourced from other provinces, while the other 85% is produced locally.

Victoria Corominas Toribio, 3rd District board member, said in an interview that the provincial board will take up passing an ordinance to make sure violators of the ban on imports would face criminal charges

"It would be a deterrent for those who attempt to violate the ban. I asked for [Governor Garcia] to certify it as urgent so we can pass it in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd reading," Toribio said in Cebuano. 

Toribio, who also heads the agricultural committee, said that those who conspire with government employees could be fined up to P5,000 and face imprisonment of up to 6 years, as allowed by the Local Government Code of the Philippines.

According to a report presented to the task force, at least P472,861 in pork products from banned countries have been destroyed in Cebu since the first temporary ban began. – Rappler.com

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.

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