December 5, 2022

Local agricultural offices across the Cordillera have contained the African swine fever that spread in small-scale stockyards in the region as well as provinces in Region 1 where most of the supply in the highlands come from.
But prices of pork remain at an average of P350 to P400 a kilo compared to the P200 a kilo prior to the detection of the ASF virus in piggeries in Benguet and Kalinga in February 2020.
Department of Agriculture-Cordillera Executive Director Cameron Odsey said the lack of supply and the high demand for pork have made prices soar.
Odsey said rural areas are self-sufficient because of the presence of backyard piggeries but for Baguio and most of La Trinidad, Benguet, supply come from Pangasinan, Tarlac, Mountain Province, and La Union.
To stabilize supply, the National Meat Inspection Service has suggested for Filipinos to consider consuming imported frozen meat.
NMIS-Cordillera Acting Director Liliana Fermin said Filipino consumers generally believe that imported frozen meat is laden with preservatives so they prefer those that are sold in wet markets.
Fermin said frozen meat is just as fresh and are hygienically prepared.
Importation of frozen meat is one of the strategies being suggested by the DA to stabilize pork prices.
In countries where the Philippines is planning to import, biosecurity measures are in place – from the slaughterhouse all the way to shipping to ensure that once these products reach our ports, they are safe to consume.
Once in the Philippines, these products are checked again for compliance with quarantine regulatory measures in the country before these are delivered in different markets in the country.
She said freezing even kills bacteria that tend to multiply when meat is exposed to an open air.
Problem is, the Baguio City public market does not have enough refrigeration facilities and only a few vendors have freezers where meat can be stored.
Lack of supply has prompted the city council of Baguio to ask the City Veterinary and Agriculture Office to do a feasibility study on reviving the operation of piggeries.
In 2019, then mayor Mauricio Domogan has directed the removal of piggeries in some barangays in Baguio in compliance with the orders of the Environmental Management Bureau and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board that piggeries should not be allowed to operate in urban areas.
When Mayor Benjamin Magalong took the helm at City Hall in July 2019, he planned on building a centralized, state-of-the-art piggery in nearby Tuba, Benguet using a P10 million grant from the DA.
The plan then was to make the displaced hog raisers form a cooperative and manage the facility. Talks went as far as obtaining the consent of the lot owner and benchmarking at modern piggeries but negotiations fizzled when Mayor Clarita Salongan of Tuba has objected to the project.
City Veterinarian Brigit Piok said she is in favor of reviving small-scale hog-raising in Baguio but only at the city’s outskirts with dense population and with strict compliance to environmental and sanitation laws.
The DA also linked hog raisers in the localities with those in the Visayas and Mindanao for the unhampered shipping of pork in Luzon as long as all Bureau of Animal Industry quarantine permits are complete.
The DA has recorded a total of 22,197 swine mortalities for 2020, 4,923 of which were due to culling to prevent the spread of the virus.
Kalinga was hardly hit with 13,339 swine mortalities while Abra had one mortality. Apayao has zero ASF-related mortality.
The ASF virus has affected 1,682 hog raisers in the Cordillera who were indemnified by the government with DA allotting funds for repopulation.
To ensure that there will be no reinfection, Odsey said hog raisers have been advised to begin with a “sentinel” pig or raising one pig in the meantime to observe if it will be infected with the virus. If the animal gets infected, this means the virus is still present in the area and the raisers will have to wait for four months before they can begin raising pigs again.
The DA plans to get sentinel pigs from “clean” barangays or those without recorded cases of ASF.
Long-term responses of the agency include collaboration with Benguet State University for a research project for localized risk assessment, surveillance, profiling, and prevalence of ASF in the localities.
The DA central office has also allotted P35.8 million for the upgrading of animal quarantine checkpoints and the setting up of a regional animal disease diagnostic laboratory. – Rimaliza A. Opiña