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DA chief: “Let’s unite to defeat ASF via whole-of-nation approach” 

Author: DA Communications Group | 5 October 2021

Agriculture Secretary William Dar calls anew on hog farmers, local government units (LGUs), the private sector, and other industry players to unite with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and employ the “whole-of-nation approach” to defeat the African Swine Fever (ASF) that has adversely affected the country’s swine industry since 2019.

“We will defeat ASF together, as a nation. While not everyone will agree, we are moving in the right direction. We have dealt with the ASF in a fast, consistent and resolute manner, in partnership with the LGUs, swine raisers, the private sector, and other industry stakeholders,” Secretary Dar said, during the “1st National Livestock and Poultry Month” celebration, at the DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) dome, in Quezon City, on October 4, 2021.

“Our partnership has resulted in the significant drop in the number of reported ASF cases, from a high of 3,200 affected barangays in August 2019 to only 69 barangays, as of September 30, 2021,” the DA chief added.

“Even if we have to claw our way out of this hole, or the gaping negative growth rates, we will do everything necessary in the spirit of Bayanihan, as the Department of Agriculture cannot do it alone. The scale of the disease demands shared responsibility among the national, local government units and swine industry stakeholders,” he added.

“In this mission, we all carry a special responsibility: the responsibility of civic duty and public service, of giving the proper guidance and motivation to those who look to us for leadership, integrity, and perseverance,” Secretary Dar said.

However, he warned that the billions of pesos being spent to help the swine industry recover, as well as the efforts and interventions by the government and industry stakeholders might be all for naught as numerous backyard farmers continue to practice swill feeding and do not employ biosecurity measures, and that unscrupulous traders continue to buy diseased animals and skirt quarantine checkpoints.

On the other hand, he thanked dozens of LGUs, hog farmers, and the private sector for helping the “OneDA Family” for their sustained and strong cooperation in the implementation of the twin “Bantay ASF sa Barangay” and hog repopulation program.

He said the DA and LGUs, previously affected by ASF, continue to free areas from quarantine and declare them ASF-free. The DA through the National Livestock Program targets to declare 500 barangays ASF-free by December 31, 2021. These areas qualify for calibrated hog repopulation by 2022.

As soon as areas are declared ASF-free they are included in the sentinelling phase of the hog repopulation program. To date, the DA regional field offices (RFOs), together with partner LGUs and hog farms, have distributed 4,803 sentinel pigs to 1,306 farmers.

Moving forward 

Secretary Dar said that the task has now shifted from merely preventing the local livestock and poultry development program from going the way of its predecessors, but to make it a resounding success.

“I know how hard for all of us that our host of interventions — our whole-of-nation approach — are repaid with unkind opinions and quick conclusions. Yet, we still try our best not to remain in this holding pattern. Not to be paralyzed by this virus,” he said.

He said that the “OneDA Family” has completed a comprehensive review of the government support services for the livestock and poultry, which will serve as the basis for a common effort for the next 10 years.

The Department also continues to partner strongly with the LGUs in the strict implementation of monitoring and surveillance protocols against ASF – with the DA providing the technical assistance. Further, it strengthens research and technology, including the development of ASF rapid test kits and field-testing of ASF vaccines.

“ASF also taught us to think forward to the future of livestock raising. We armed ourselves against future Transboundary Animal Diseases through the establishment of the Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases or (CenTrAD) at the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) in Munoz, Nueva Ecija,” Secretary Dar said.

In addition, our Livestock and Poultry Information-Early Warning System gathers and consolidates important data on livestock and poultry commodities nationwide — tracking the effects of diseases, consumer behavior, and climate change on the supply and demand for livestock and poultry products.

Further, he said the “OneDA Family” has also expanded the support services for the livestock and poultry sector, spanning the entire value chain. It also continues to promote and distribute improved genetic materials for cattle, carabao, swine, and small ruminants through artificial insemination.

For instance, he said thousands of farmers have received initial stocks of poultry animals under this national effort. They will raise them for food and additional income, as the economy begins to recover from the consequences of the pandemic.

“In terms of credit, we have loosened up credit facilities for our livestock raisers,” he added.

Beyond providing policy directions, the DA also supplied LGUs with veterinary drugs and biologics to limit the spread of ASF and other animal diseases.

The DA also trained thousands of LGU veterinarians, barangay biosecurity officers, and technical personnel over the past two years.

Likewise, the DA continues to increase corn production, as the grain serves as a major feed ingredient for swine and poultry, including aquaculture. ### (Krystelle Ymari A. Vergara, DA-AFID)

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