African swine fever

Koronadal vet sounds alarm as ASF threat reaches ‘critical level’

Rommel Rebollido
Koronadal vet sounds alarm as ASF threat reaches ‘critical level’

ASF THREAT. Residents move their pigs as authorities take hogs from backyard farms for culling in General Santos City.

Rommel Rebollido/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) Despite assurances from the agriculture department that the situation is under control, the chief of the veterinary office of one city in Soccsksargen says the threat has already reached 'critical level'

(Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this story, we mistakenly used a wrong photo for Rommel Rebollido’s story about the African Swine Fever (ASF) in the Soccsksargen region. The pig in the first first photo shows a villager using a carabao to pull a cart with a dead pig following a flood in Maitum, Sarangani province. We have replaced the photo with the correct one.)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – The African Swine Fever (ASF) continues to spread and threaten the Soccsksargen region despite assurances from the agriculture department that the situation is under control. The chief of the veterinary office of one city in the region sounded alarm bells, saying they have already reached a “critical level.”

Dr. Jennifer Bulawan, ASF focal person of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region XII, said the government is on top of the situation in Soccsksargen, and the region’s biosecurity measures are in place.

Bulawan gave assurance that the threat posed by ASF-affected areas have been immediately contained.

Koronadal City veterinarian Charlemagne Calo, however, painted a different picture, saying the city’s ASF situation has worsened.

“Nasa kritikal na ang lungsod ng Koronadal sa estado ng ASF (The ASF situation in the city of Koronadal’s has reached critical level),” Calo said.

Calo advised the city’s backyard hog raisers to sell their pigs while there is still time given the ASF threat, and scale up their biosecurity defenses by not feeding their swine with leftovers, and regularly disinfecting piggeries.

The local government also advised hog raisers in the city to momentarily stop bringing in hogs from neighboring towns.

In nearby Banga town, South Cotabato alone, officials confirmed that at least 200 hogs were recently found to have been ASF-infected.

Calo said the Koronadal City government stepped up its ASF surveillance, with blood samples being collected for examination by a Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) laboratory in General Santos City. 

In General Santos City, the local government fielded 80 veterinary workers to villages near the boundaries of Sarangani and South Cotabato provinces to monitor and keep traders from bringing in live hogs, swine carcasses, processed pork, and any product that contains pork.

“We have to do what is necessary to protect the city’s multibillion-peso hog industry,” said Dr. Antonio Ephraim Marin, General Santos City veterinary office chief.

General Santos first saw an ASF outbreak in January, the month when it culled over 500 heads of swine. 

Marin said the city’s defenses against the ASF helped the city government in preventing the disease from further spreading.

But he said the ASF threat remained, and there was a need for the local government to send more workers to do fieldwork and serve as “spotters” in remote villages near the boundaries of South Cotabato and Sarangani.

Marin said traders were using these routes to sneak hogs and pork products into the city.

Authorities seized 19 hogs that were being discreetly transported to the city via a dirt road in Sitio San Vicente in Barangay Olympog last week.

The animals, subjected to culling, were traced to Barangay San Roque, Malungon town in Sarangani province, said assistant city veterinarian Emilio Gargaran Jr.

The Sarangani Provincial Veterinary Office said 39 ASF-infected hogs in a backyard swine farm in Malapatan town were culled on Thursday, March 31, alone, said Dr. Bernard Cababat, acting Sarangani provincial veterinarian. – Rappler.com

Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship