Region 12 braces for bird flu

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 August) — Veterinary quarantine personnel have sealed off the seaports, airports and transport terminals here and in parts of Region 12 in the wake of the declared bird flu outbreak in Pampanga.

Dr. Castor Leo Ejercito, chief of the Veterinary Quarantine Services (VQS) in Region 12, said Monday the move was aimed to prevent the entry of live fighting cocks, poultry and meat products from areas in Luzon affected by the outbreak.

He said their quarantine inspectors are mandated to seize and subject to quarantine all live fowl and meat products that would be shipped to the area.

On Sunday, VQS personnel at the city airport here stopped the entry of 16 fighting cocks that were brought in through a Cebu Pacific flight from Manila.

Its listed owner, Lucia Rulete, said the fighting cocks were from a farm in Cagayan de Oro City and shipped to the city via Metro Manila airport.

She said they were forced to use the route as there is no direct flight from Cagayan de Oro to this city and passenger vans did not agree to transport them.

Ejercito said the seizure of the fighting cocks was based on a memorandum issued by their mother unit, the Bureau of Animal Industry central office, and the Department of Agriculture, through Secretary Emmanuel Pinol.

“The movement of live fowl and meat products from Luzon is prohibited. Our quarantine stations are mandated to monitor and strictly implement this,” he said in an interview over television show Magandang Umaga South Central Mindanao.

Owing to this, he said their personnel assigned in seaports, airports and major transport terminals in the region are presently on high alert.

He specifically cited the General Santos and Cotabato airports, and the Makar and Polloc ports.

Ejercito said such prohibition is necessary to prevent the entry to the area of bird-flu infected fowl and products from Luzon.

He noted that Visayas and Mindanao remains free from bird-flu and the national government is doing everything to maintain such status.

“Mindanao accounts for 30 to 35 percent of our country’s poultry production and that is valued at around P10 billion. So just imagine the impact if it reaches here,” he said.

But Ejercito said there’s no need for residents to panic as the region remains clear of bird flu and the outbreak is mainly confined in San Luis, Pampanga.

“Visayas and Mindanao is still free and we’re determined to protect our areas,” he added. (MindaNews)