TACLOBAN CITY – The Eastern Visayas region is still free from African swine fever (ASF), prompting authorities to step up efforts to prevent the entry of the disease that has been threatening the country's hog industry.
Citing field reports and results of blood sample tests, Department of Agriculture (DA) 8 (Eastern Visayas) Assistant

Director Elvira Torres said on Monday that there has been no single report of an instance of the highly contagious disease of pigs in the region.

Last week, local agriculture workers collected blood samples from hogs raised in Ormoc City, Leyte and Las Navas, Northern Samar after farmers reported that some of their pigs had died after manifesting symptoms similar to ASF.

After thorough assessment and laboratory analysis, the cause of death was found out to be a classical respiratory disease in hogs, according to a DA-8 report released on Monday.

"We ask hog raisers to report to (the) DA or local government units if their hogs manifest ASF-like symptoms for us to immediately check the health status of their swine," Torres told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

"The region has been free of ASF. The public should not worry about consuming pork meat, especially that ASF-infected meat does not pose health risks to humans," she added.

Executive director of DA-8, Milo delos Reyes, called on the ASF inter-agency task force to be non-complacent and to undertake a proactive stance, such as by regular submission of incident reports and augmenting manpower complement in their respective areas.

Authorities have strengthened their watch in Northern Samar ports, considered as entry points of swine raised in Luzon, as well as other major seaports and airports.

From January to June, Luzon hog raisers shipped 9,000 heads to Eastern Visayas, according to Torres. Most of the region's pork meat is produced by local farmers and traders from General Santos City.

The region's population needs about 200,000 heads of swine a year, according to the DA. In 2018, the region’s swine industry produced 77,972 metric tons of live hogs as reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Meanwhile, the agriculture department confirmed on Monday the ASF outbreak in three specific areas in Rizal and Bulacan provinces.

To prevent or avoid this dreaded swine disease, the DA, through its Bureau of Animal Industry, has long launched and rolled out the BABES campaign.

BABES is an acronym for: Ban pork imports from confirmed ASF-affected countries; Avoid swill feeding; Block entry at major seaport and airports, especially international ports; Educate our people; and lastly, Submit hog blood samples.

Pigs affected by the ASF virus usually manifest high fever, reddish mumps in the body, bleeding of internal organs that could lead to sudden death within two to 10 days. (PNA)