DA, UMN enter academic partnership on transboundary animal diseases

Author: DA-AFID | 22 July 2022

The Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA), through its Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and National Livestock Program (NLP), inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the University of Minnesota (UNM) to capacitate the country against transboundary animal diseases (TADs).

Areas of cooperation stated in the three-year MOU include knowledge-sharing through the exchange of faculty, scientists, and technical staff, along with the conduct of joint conferences, symposia, and other activities. Veterinary experts from the DA are set to visit UNM within the year for the drafting of the specific terms of the partnership.

The agreement benefits both countries by combining research and practice in the detection and control of TADs such as the African Swine Fever (ASF), as well as, employing and adhering to international standards for the trade of animal products.

The Philippines was first hit with the ASF in July 2019 when hogs from several backyard farms in Rizal Province tested positive for the disease. The DA then, identified and classified cities and municipalities into zones to better manage the ASF outbreak. According toAdministrative Circular 12, series of 2019, zones are categorized into red (infected), pink (buffer), yellow (surveillance; adjacent to pink zones), light green (protected; ASF-free and moderate-risk areas), and dark green (free; ASF-free and low-risk areas).

As of July 15, 2022, the DA-BAI’s Bantay ASF sa Barangay (BABay ASF) reported that a total of 33 cities and municipalities have been upgraded to the yellow zone, while 204 others have been moved to the pink zone.

The Department responded by imposing strict border controls to prevent the entry and movement of ASF-infected livestock in the country, in coordination with national government agencies and local government units. It also implemented the twin programs Integrated National Swine Production Initiatives for Recovery and Expansion (INSPIRE) and the BABay ASF, as well as participated in the clinical trials of the ASF vaccine, to revitalize the country’s hog industry.

Commissioner Thom Petersen of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture graced the MOU signing, who referred to the partnership as one that “embodies the strengths of both sides” in fighting against ASF.

BAI Officer-in-Charge – Director Reildrin Morales expressed gratitude to the UNM and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for collaborating with the Philippines and the DA.

“The United States and the Philippines have a long history of friendship, of caring. And I do hope that this engagement will further expand in other areas of food safety concerns,” said Director Morales.

The MOU was formally signed by UMN College of Veterinary Medicine – Facilities Management Chief Operating Officer Chris Dillon, UMN Associate Vice President and Dean of International Programs Meredith McQuaid, UMN Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel Croson, BAI Officer-in-Charge – Director Reildrin Morales, and NLP Director Ruth Miclat-Sonaco during the conclusion of the US – Philippines Agribusiness Trade Mission: Briefing on Philippine Livestock, Poultry, and Fishery Sectors, which was held at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management Convention Hall in Quezon City, Philippines.

Prior to this, officials of the DA met with the US delegation to discuss various key issues and best practices in both the US and the Philippines, as well, as potential areas for collaboration to strengthen agricultural and trade partnerships between the two countries.

“I think the Philippines is a great country and there’s a lot that we can do together. We look forward to doing more together and this is just one straw of that,” said USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Administrator Daniel Whitley, who led the US delegation.

The visiting US envoy also included US Embassy Manila Agriculture Counselor Morgan Haas, USDA Trade Missions Lead Jamie Haig, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Director Russell Caplen, FAS Trade Policy Officer for the Philippines and Asia Pacific Benjamin Tsui, and FAS Communications and Executive Support Senior Director Tim Truman.

The DA was represented in the meeting by its Undersecretary for Operations and Chief-of-Staff Leocadio Sebastian, BAI Industry Officer-in-Charge – Director Reildrin Morales, BAI Veterinarian Kiara Garcia, International Affairs Division Chief Janet Garcia, and Desk Officer for the Americas Dayanara Lausa. ### (Krystelle Ymari A. Vergara, DA-AFID)

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