GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Officials in South Cotabato province and General Santos City moved to save their multibillion-peso hog industry as the problem of the spread of the African swine fever (ASF) in the Soccsksargen region worsened.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) in the Soccsksargen region placed South Cotabato under a red-zone category because of its ASF cases as officials worried that the local hog industry would collapse if the situation worsens.
Dr. Emil Gargaran of the General Santos City Veterinary Office on Tuesday, June 21, said checkpoint operations in the city were stepped up again to stop the entry of live hogs, pork, and pork-based products from South Cotabato, particularly from the towns of Surallah and Banga.
The move was prompted by developments in South Cotabato where Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. announced on Monday, June 20, that the province was categorized as a red zone because of the ASF cases.
Gargaran said the ASF situation in South Cotabato was posing a threat to the city’s P8.4-billion swine industry.
At least 5,000 workers and their families in General Santos alone depend on the city’s swine industry.
Tamayo said that if left uncontained, the hog disease has the potential to wipe out thousands of hogs in commercial farms in the province, and displace many workers.
The South Cotabato Swine Producers Association, a group of the biggest commercial hog farms in the province, boasts of a combined sow population of 55,000, producing more than 40,000 hogs each month.
Agriculture officials were particularly concerned about the ASF cases in the towns of Banga and Surallah where the Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) recently culled more than 400 backyard-raised hogs.
The situation had been better in South Cotabato that on April 28, when officials declared the ASF outbreak contained and started a 90-day clearing process.
But then the situation worsened, and the disease spread again because ASF-infected hogs were brought in undetected.
Tamayo said some backyard hog raisers also managed to avoid the mandatory culling, and instead slaughtered infected hogs and sold their meat, aggravating the problem.
On June 10, officials in Surallah town reported new ASF outbreaks in one village alone and culled 187 hogs there.
Surallah Mayor Antonio Bendita has ordered a ban on the movement of hogs in the municipality until June 30.
Tamayo directed the release of additional funds to compensate farmers affected by the mandatory culling rule. The farmers are entitled to get from P2,000 to P5,000 per head.
Gargaran said the ban in General Santos would be lifted as soon as the ASF situation in South Cotabato is under control.