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Iloilo province launches pork festival as antidote to ASF doldrums

Jun Aguirre

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Iloilo province launches pork festival as antidote to ASF doldrums

VIGILANCE. Philippine protocols to fight African swine fever include culling of pigs within 500 meters of an infection site.

Department of Agriculture file photo

Iloilo City reports its first confirmed African swine fever case in Barangay Tacas, Jaro district while other affected areas report dwindling infections

ILOILO, Philippines – A pork festival amid the spread of African swine fever (ASW)? Iloilo province’s seeming counter-intuitive approach to the crisis faced by its hog raisers and downstream producers makes sense by boosting the capacity of communities to battle the economic fallout of ASF while strengthening measures to contain the virus.

Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. signed Executive Order No. 545 Series of 2022 on Thursday, November 24, rolling out the mechanisms and components of the Pork Festival Kontra ASF.

Defensor signed the EO as he added the town of New Lucena as a municipal red zone, indicating the spread of ASF among barangays.

The towns of Oton, San Miguel, and Leganes were earlier tagged as red zones. The towns of Alimodian, Sta. Barbara, and Mina have also reported ASF cases but have for now prevented the infection from crossing over to other villages.

Defensor signed the EO as Iloilo City also announced its first confirmed case of African swine fever (ASF) in Zone 5, Barangay Tacas, Jaro district.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas convened the local ASF task force on Friday, November 25, including quarantine protocols within a 500-meter radius of the affected barangay, where one boar, two sows, and their 36 piglets have died. The confirmed case came from 17 samples sent in for testing.

The city will also keep a tight watch on the slaughterhouse, which is located in the same barangay, to ensure that all hogs processed have proper safety documentation from concerned government offices.

On November 21, Iloilo provincial veterinarian Dr. Darel Tabuada reported 366 confirmed ASF cases in the province.

But on November 23, Oton town, ground zero in Iloilo’s ASF crisis, reported decreasing incidence, with remaining cases only in 28 of 37 barangays.

Not dangerous to humans

While the governor said the pork festival “is not a pork eating festival,” he also asked municipalities declared as red and pink zones to stimulate consumption of pork as an additional preemptive depopulation measure, and to allow communities to aid beleaguered hog growers and pork product producers.

“It could be in a form of a lechon festival or cooking contest,” Defensor said.

Santa Barbara town will have its first porkfest on Sunday, November 27 around the town’s flagpole area.

ASF is deadly to hogs and can decimate local industries swiftly as no vaccine is available.

But the virus itself is not a threat to human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans. 

The spread of ASF hampered economic recovery in communities still dealing with the effects of the country’s long COVID-19 lockdown. Strictly contained pork festivals can provide income to affected hog raisers and small manufacturers of pork products.

Defensor’s EO provides financial aid to affected hog growers, from P7,000 to P30,000 depending on number of affected heads.

The governor strictly links the provision of financial aid to formal investigation by the ASF task force and documented depopulation moves.

The EO also lays down protocols for weekly testing in affected communities and reporting results.

Aside from physical pork festivals, the EO sets down three other components.

Defensor ordered the imposition of sustained and intensified border control within the red (infected) and pink (buffer zones) to prevent the spread of ASF, which will be strictly implemented to include pork products during the festival.

Across the region, provinces and cities have tightened border controls on pork and pork products coming from Iloilo. Authorities in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental have burned several hundreds of kilos of confiscated pork products and continue to monitor the origins of pork products sold in supermarkets and groceries.

The EO also provides support for the conduct of training and seminars on biosecurity measures and animal husbandry practices to strengthen the swine industry at the municipal and barangay level; and the implementation of preemptive depopulation measures within the red and pink zones to minimize or eliminate potential hosts.

For economic recovery, the province will hold seminars with convergence partners on pork processing to create value chain and generate employment and business.

“We want to take this opportunity to realize and motivate the industry to add value to pork so we can create a value chain in the pork industry…We want to motivate the industry to process pork so we can add products to our economy and even to our tourism industry,” the governor added.

“That is the way forward. Let us strengthen the backyard farmers so we can fight ASF. That is the basic strategy,” Defensor said. –

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