September 9, 2019
Philippines confirms first outbreak of African swine fever
The Philippines confirmed its first case of African swine fever after dead pigs found at local backyard farms were tested positive for the disease, the country's agriculture chief said.
The announcement was based on the results of laboratory tests requested by Agriculture Secretary William Dar after reports last month of an unusual number of pig deaths in backyard farms in Rizal province, near Manila.
"Out of the 20 blood samples (sent to the United Kingdom for testing), 14 are positive with African swine fever," Dar said in a media briefing. According to the official, more test could be conducted to determine the virulency of the strain discovered in the local hogs.
As of July 1, the Philippines' swine herd was estimated at 12.7 million heads, including about eight million pigs in backyard farms and 4.7 million in commercial farms, according to government data.
More than 7,000 hogs have been culled in the affected areas, with some buried alive, Dar said. The country itself has banned pork and pork-based products from more than a dozen countries, including Vietnam, Laos and China. The Department of Agriculture (DA) also strengthened animal quarantine and food safety measures, prohibiting the transport of live animals and meat products without health and shipping permits.
Agriculture officials suspect the virus was brought to local farms via food scraps, or swill, from hotels and restaurants fed to pigs, or from imported pork products. They reminded farm owners that the transport, handling, disposal and sale of swill without proper permits and not in accordance with the existing regulations is illegal.
However, officials also assured the public not to avoid consuming pork as hogs that went through the proper process of slaughtering and preparation are safe.
Before slaughtering, hogs are validated and assessed by a veterinarian, who then issues a medical certificate, the DA said in a statement.
Once slaughtered, the meats are stamped with a seal from the government's National Meat Inspection Service.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez sought to downplay the impact of African swine fever on food prices as he said consumers are likely to turn to poultry, beef, and fish as substitutes.