February 27, 2024

2019, the Year of the Pig, proved to be unfriendly to the animal itself and the entire hog-raising industry as the month of September ushered in the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country.
Two months since the Department of Agriculture confirmed the first ASF cases in two Luzon provinces, the agency said the outbreak has cost the local hog industry P1 billion worth of opportunities lost each month, which among others required the killing of 7,000 pigs and even infected the pork products of an established local brand of frozen meat.
But if there is one good thing that the entry of ASF in the country brought about,it is the heightened vigilance and call for stricter quarantine measures among stakeholders nationwide to prevent the deadly viral disease from further endangering our food sources.
Being proactive is the key, and in this aspect the provincial government of Benguet and other local government units that followed suit did not disappoint in delivering prompt action. Prior to the confirmation of ASF in the country, the Benguet Provincial Veterinary Office has organized task forces composed of concerned offices to focus on prevention, response, and regular updates on ASF.
This has been followed up with the governor’s order to temporarily ban the entry of pork products from the areas where cases of ASF were detected, and also disallowing products that did not pass quarantine check by strictly enforcing quarantine control protocols and food safety measures within the province.
In Abra and Sagada, Mountain Province, all entry points are also tightly guarded, upon the LGUs’ declaration of a total ban on the entry of live swine, raw meat, and frozen and processed pork in the provinces, which have the bagnet and miki; and etag industries, respectively, to protect.
One may say that there is nothing outstanding about the preparations the highland LGUs made because assuring public health is part of their job. As Gov. Melchor Diclas puts it, issuing the order is a must and a preventive measure, as economic impact has to be considered.
But more than economic considerations, these LGUs are protecting a culture and its people from factors that may put them at risk. Cordillera provinces are big consumers of pork and have areas where pigs are an important cultural staple. The region also has communities relying on native swine-raising as livelihood source.
LGUs could only do so much, with most local officials tapping already undermanned police forces to guard the quarantine checkpoints. Most municipal department offices, which also have barely enough personnel to handle official functions, have also stretched their resources to have people in checkpoints.
With these beefed-up efforts of protecting our staple food sources, we suggest for the national government to work on its promise to support our local industries, so that Filipinos could afford to buy local and be able to have a safe and truly “pinggang Pinoy” on the Filipino table. We have always been touting to have export quality products; why not make our own produce serve a far-reaching purpose by serving Filipinos first? By which we believe we could really go globally competitive and survive open trade.
The ASF-infected pork is not the first imported product that succeeded endangering our food sources, and the risks would remain since we are still far from being food self-sufficient and the country has open trade relation commitments. However, being a cordial part of a global community does not mean we become lax in our own backyard.
It is therefore incumbent for us to see to the quality and standards of imports flowing through our ports, to our markets, and to our tables.