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ASF pig cull finds BAI, Cebu province at odds

THE Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) said on Tuesday that the pigs infected with African Swine Flu (ASF) in Cebu will need to be culled according to international norms, setting up a potential clash with the province’s governor, who ordered a halt to the cull on Monday.

BAI Director Paul C. Limson said the cull procedure recommended by the World Organization for Animal Health will require the destruction of hogs within 500-meters of the infection site.

“Our protocols are always being reviewed by our stakeholders and our experts. As far as I know, the movement is being reviewed right now. If it is needed to adjust, we will,” Mr. Limson said in a media briefing.

Last week, the BAI confirmed that the blood samples taken from pigs in a slaughterhouse in Carcar City tested positive for ASF. 

In a news conference on Monday, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia ordered the suspension of the cull in Carcar, to the southwest of Cebu City.

She said that ASF-infected pigs from the three barangays in Carcar City have already been culled, and called for no pigs to be culled without confirmation using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.

According to Mr. Limson, the BAI regional office will be agreeing a course of action in consultation with the province.

“We will try to understand what Governor Garcia wants to do (in her) area of jurisdiction and we will respond to her,” Mr. Limson said.

He said local government units have the power under the Local Government Code to issue ordinances to protect their industries.

Mr. Limson warned that ASF can spread “through meat products, through the movement of live pigs.”

Agriculture Assistant and Chief of Staff Secretary Rex C. Estoperez told BusinessWorld that measures have to be “harmonized” to minimize finger-pointing and protect the hog industry.

“The Department of Agriculture’s Senior (Undersecretary Domingo F.) Panganiban has called for harmonized action “to stabilize prices and the supply of pork,” Mr. Estoperez said. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera

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