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DA to review Philippine policies on bird flu

Jee Y. Geronimo
DA to review Philippine policies on bird flu
'We will conduct a review on how we should handle the [avian influenza] problems in the future because... the industry actually suffered because of the very strict measures that we implemented,' says Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Tuesday, November 21, said it will review its policies on avian influenza or bird flu more than 3 months after the Philippines recorded its first outbreak in Pampanga.

“This afternoon, we will convene the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), this is because we will conduct a review of our policies in relation to avian influenza (AI),” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said in a media briefing on Tuesday.

Piñol said the review will include reconciling the Philippines’ protocols with those of countries which have “more extensive experience” in handling bird flu outbreaks.

“We will conduct a review on how we should handle the AI problems in the future because obviously, while many people said that we were successful in handling the bird flu crisis in Pampanga, the industry actually suffered because of the very strict measures that we implemented,” he added.

After bird flu broke out in San Luis, Pampanga, the DA put up a 1-kilometer (km) quarantine zone and 7-km zone for surveillance.

The department culled and buried birds within the 1-km radius, and prohibited the movement of birds, eggs, or other poultry products within the 7-km radius.

But there were experiences in Europe, Piñol said, when only the birds in the affected farm were culled, while surrounding farms served as observation areas.

This is one of the policies that the department’s PCAF – a body that makes recommendations to the secretary of agriculture – will review.

On Tuesday, Piñol attributed the “slump” in the 3rd quarter performance of the Philippines’ agriculture sector to the bird flu outbreak, as well as the drop in the performance of fisheries.

Piñol hopes the PCAF will come up with new policies that are “more adaptable” and won’t hurt the poultry industry.

Ronnie Domingo, officer-in-charge of the DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry, said their surveillance continues in Central Luzon, and quarantine checkpoints have been transferred from the 7-km areas to the border of the affected provinces.

“Sa atin pong surveillance na ginagawa, may mga tauhan po tayo na nag-iikot sa mga farms. Sa Pampanga po nakakolekta na tayo ng 820 samples, sa Nueva Ecija, 1,400 samples,” Domingo said, referring to the two provinces where cases of bird flu were reported in August.

(In the surveillance we’re conducting, we have personnel who go around the farms. In Pampanga, we have collected 820 samples, while in Nueva Ecija, 1,400 samples.)

The deployment of sentinel birds to the affected farms is already underway, according to Domingo. (READ: Bird flu in PH: 90-day waiting period in Pampanga epicenter begins) – Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.