LOREGA, Kitaotao, Bukidnon (MindaNews / 12 February) – Travelers from Davao City and other parts of Mindanao know they have reached Bukidnon because their vehicles slow down and pass through a wheel bath at the Animal Quarantine Checkpoint and a few meters away, they must get off to step on the foot baths. Those coming into Bukidnon from Cagayan de Oro City and other areas sharing boundaries with this landlocked province, go through the same routine.
On Monday, February 10, four days after neighboring Davao City announced that the African Swine Fever (ASF), a killer disease affecting pigs, had been confirmed present in two of its 182 barangays, workers at the quarantine checkpoint here exuded confidence they could keep Bukidnon, Mindanao’s top producer of hogs and cattle, ASF-free.
That confidence stems from the fact that the province had, for decades, imposed biosecurity measures, essentially to protect their livestock from the foot and mouth disease. In the fight against ASF, the partnership between the provincial government and the private sector, particularly those engaged in businesses dealing with hogs, is a crucial factor.
While other provinces and cities in mainland Mindanao are still struggling on how to address the ASF threat and how to properly set up animal quarantine checkpoints, Bukidnon is way, way ahead.
Workers from the Provincial Veterinarian Office (PVO), assisted by the police, man the quarantine checkpoint 24/7 on three eight-hour shifts. While this workforce has been in place for decades, the campaign to prevent the entry of ASF led to the hiring of additional personnel, as inspection of cargo to ensure no prohibited items can enter.
After Agriculture Secretary William Dar confirmed on September 9 last year that the ASF had reached the country, particularly in Rizal and Bulacan in Luzon, Governor Jose Zubiri issued EO 22 on September 25 declaring a temporary total ban on the entry of live hogs, pork, pork products and by-products from these ASF-affected provinces in Luzon.
Zubiri expanded the scope on October 14 last year through EO 26, to include those coming from “other provinces in the country until such time a declaration is made by the Bureau of Animal Industry assuring the safety of the swine industry in the region.”
News of the first recorded ASF outbreak in Mindanao broke out on February 1, though social media posting of a January 31 directive of Mayor Michael Maruya to “control the spread of the African Swine Fever” in Don Marcelino, Davao Occidental. Maruya said “more or less 1,000” pigs had died in eight of its 15 barangays. On February 6, ASF was confirmed in two barangays in Davao City and on February 12, in three towns in Davao del Sur.
By the time ASF had reached Mindanao, Bukidnon was more than just ready.
Dr. Nancy Diez, the provincial veterinarian, told MindaNews on February 9: “EO 26 is temporary total ban of hogs, pork, pork products and by products from all provinces throughout the country so covered na provinces here in Mindanao even before wala pa positive cases (for ASF)” in Mindanao.””
Ghumel Torayno, who has been working at the Provincial Veteran’s Office for 22 years and had been assigned to various quarantine checkpoints in the province, showed MindaNews a container where pork products they had confiscated from those who passed the checkpoint, were stored for disposal. The items included pork cuts and pork tocino.
Inside their office, he showed MindaNews a box seized from the cargo compartment of a passenger bus from Davao City a day earlier. The box, an unaccompanied package addressed to someone in Quezon town, grabbed the attention of the inspectors because it felt cold. The cargo waybill said it contained chicken lumpia. As it turned out, some packs of pork tocino were among the contents, but were not declared.
Pork products like chicharon, he said, are a common item for confiscation. But he pointed to the chicharon sold at the stalls a few steps away. “Beef yan”
In some instances, owners of goods confiscated would quarrel with them, Torayno recalled. He said they respond by handing over a copy of Zubiri’s EO 26. Owners or consignees of the prohibited products affix their signatures on the Veterinary Quarantine Violation / Confiscation Report,
In both roofed areas where the wheel bath and foot baths are, tarpaulins on EO 26 , the ASF and other messages seeking cooperation of the passengers, and calling on consumers to “support our local hog raisers” and “buy Bukidnon pork” are displayed in strategic areas.
The wheel bath, foot baths, and sprinklers have a steady supply of the disinfectant, ViroGuard.
Torayno said the recommended ratio is 1.75 liters of the disinfectant to 200 liters or one steel drum of water. But Torayno said they adjusted the mixture from 1.75 to two liters to a drum.
He said they have enough supply of the disinfectant from their office but this is augmented by donations from the private sector – associations and individual farm owners.
A fellow quarantine worker also said some provide them packs of coffee and sugar especially for those on night shift, to ensure they are alert when vehicles pass by.
A farm owner offered to provide additional sprinklers.
Manufacturers of hog feeds also helped in putting up “stop” signages, among others.
Leo Tan, President of the Northern Mindanao Hog Raisers Association (NorMinHog) told MindaNews they are helping not only Bukidnon but other parts of Northern Mindanao.
“We are helping not only Lorega. We are helping all the checkpoints where we are needed. And we are not only helping Bukidnon but all of Region 10. Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental, Iligan and Ozamiz,” Tan said, adding they “committed some financial support.”
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Swine Situation Report from October 2019 to December 2019, released on January 30, 2020, Northern Mindanao ranked third highest producer of hogs in the country at 56.61 thousand metric tons, liveweight, after Calabarzon’s 103.10 and Central Luzon’s 97.22.
Bukidnon registered the highest inventory of swine among all the provinces in Northern Mindanao, at 555,230 heads out of the region’s 997,870, according to PSA’s Livestock and Poultry Situation in Northern Mindanao as of July 01, 2019. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)
MORE PHOTOS: Keeping Bukidnon ASF-free