DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 February) – After the outbreaks of African Swine Fever (ASF) were confirmed in Don Marcelino and Malita towns in Davao Occidental, Jose Abad Santos town in the same province is seeking confirmation of 800 suspected cases of ASF in four of its 26 barangays.
Mayor Jason John Joyce told MindaNews in a text message Monday night that the Department of Agriculture (DA) will “conduct confirmatory tests” on Tuesday in his town adjacent to Don Marcelino.
He identified the four barangays where suspected ASF cases have been reported as Caburan Big, Caburan Small, Mangile and Patulang near Don Marcelino.
Joyce said they learned about the ASF in neighboring Don Marcelino only on January 31 when Mayor Michael Maruya in a memorandum said “more or less” 1,000 pigs had died in eight of its 15 barangays and the DA had confirmed the deaths were due to the ASF.
“We had cases in JAS which we thought were only ordinary swine disease,” he said.
“We already have checkpoints at exit and entry points, facilitated by the PNP/AFP/LGU (Philippine National Police/Armed Forces of the Philippines/Local Government Unit),” he said.
Municipal agriculturist Ronville Muego told MindaNews on Tuesday morning that the suspected 800 cases include those who have died and those who are showing symptoms of the disease.
“Some are dead, nilibing na deretso” (they were buried immediately), Muego said. He said they were also surprised to learn about the 1,000 deaths of pigs in Don Marcelino and the news about it led to their own residents reporting on suspected cases.
Of the four barangays where suspected cases have been reported, only two are contiguous: Caburan Big and Caburan Small, which is the poblacion.
Barangay Mangile, he said, shares a boundary with Don Marcelino, the “Ground Zero” of ASF in Mindanao. Between Mangile and the two Caburans, Muego said, is 12 kilometers, passing through at least two barangays, while Patulang is even farther away from the Caburans.
Muego said they will await the results of the confirmatory tests that will be conducted on Tuesday.
Muego is presently in Malita where all of the province’s five mayors, municipal agriculturists and veterinarians, have been summoned by Governor Claude Bautista for a meeting.
Bautista told the Philippine Information Agency on Sunday that there will be “thorough investigations” and that he would call on the municipal and provincial veterinarians and listen to the testimonies of residents who had complained to them beforehand “kung bakit hindi kaagad na-address itong problema, bakit umabot pa sa ganito” (why this problem was not immediately addressed, why it has come to this).
The Department of Agriculture over the weekend confirmed the outbreak of ASF in eight of 15 barangays in Don Marcelino (Baluntaya, Calian, Lawa, Linadasan, Mabuhay, Nueva Villa, North Lamidan and South Lamidan) and seven of 30 barangays in neighboring Malita, the provincial capital Bito, Kidalapong, Felis, Mana, New Argao, Talogoy and Taubalan).
Not all of these barangays are contiguous.
ASF is a highly contagious hemorrhagic viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs, and although it poses no risk to humans, causes serious economic and production losses, according to the OiE World Organization for Animal Health.
The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) said the disease is “characterized by high fever, loss of appetite, hemorrhages in the skin and internal organs, and death which follows between two to 10 days on the average” and mortality can be as high as 100%.
There is currently no vaccine against ASF and no treatment is available, it added.
The disease, according to BAI, is transmitted by direct contact or by ingestion of garbage/swill feeds containing infected pig meat or pig meat products, ticks and biting files, contaminated premises, vehicles, equipment and clothing.
The confirmation of ASF outbreaks in Don Marcelino and Malita towns came nearly five months after Agriculture Secretary William Dar confirmed on September 9 that the ASF had reached the Philippines, with outbreaks recorded in Rizal and Bulacan, later spreading to neighboring areas, all in Luzon.
In its seven reports to the OiE World Organization for Animal Health between September 9 and January 29, the Philippines said a total of 761 deaths from 170 outbreaks in Luzon have been recorded since the entry of ASF in the country, with a total of 191,641 hogs culled to prevent the spread of the disease.
The provincial government has declared a lockdown and set up checkpoints to prevent the exit and entry of pork and other pork products to prevent the spread of the disease. Bautista told the PIA on Sunday that the national government recommended a three-month lockdown but he prefers to extend that to six months.
Bautista said he told Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who visited Don Marcelino last Sunday, that if the province loses all its swine population, “kailangan palitan ninyo ng walang ASF. Tawa siya. ‘O sige, gawin namin yan’” (you should replace it with those without ASF. He laughed and said ‘We will do that.’).
Don Marcelino has an estimated 13,000 swine population.
Dar said the national government will pay affected farmers P5,000 cash for every hog that will be culled. Farmers, he said, could also avail of a P30,000 loan payable in three years without interest, to fund other livelihood programs, (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)