Keeping out a virus
The entire quarantine team of the Bureau of Animal Industry at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport was relieved last week for failure to implement quarantine protocols to prevent the entry of pork products affected by African Swine Fever or ASF.
The Department of Agriculture had ordered the protocols to be put in place, including the installation of footbaths to ensure that arriving passengers will not bring in the virus that causes ASF, which is currently spreading in China.
While ASF does not pose health risks to humans, the disease has been blamed for the recent deaths of both wild and domestic pigs in 13 countries in Asia and Europe. Agriculture officials and hog raisers alike are worried that the virus could decimate hogs in the Philippines and endanger the food supply. Approximately 95 percent of the country’s pork supply is locally sourced.
Hog raisers lauded the quick orders issued by agriculture officials to prevent the entry of ASF, but expressed concern that the same speed will not be seen in the implementation. The animal quarantine team at the NAIA reportedly failed to quickly install the footbaths because of “procurement issues.” Hog raisers said footbaths could also be missing from other international ports of entry across the archipelago.
Preventing the entry of a virus is only as good as it weakest link. The government must give urgent attention to ensuring that ASF will not reach the country. Filipinos are major consumers of pork. If the local supply is hit by ASF, importation is possible, but this will surely mean a spike in pork prices. Blame is guaranteed to be heaped on the government. There is no room for complacency.