DISINFECT. Agriculture and veterinary personnel disinfect all vehicles and commuters in the boundary of Malalag town in Davao del Sur and Sta. Maria in neighboring Davao Occidental, to prevent the spread of African swine fever. Davao Occidental is currently on total lockdown for the transport of pigs and pork products after the confirmed cases of ASF in Don Marcelino, Davao Occidental. (PNA photo by Eldie S. Aguirre)

DIGOS CITY -- The scare brought about by the African swine fever (ASF) infestation in Davao Occidental has prompted Davao del Sur to devise stringent preventive measures to remain free of the disease.

Despite the province's proximity to the ASF "ground zero," where thousands of pigs have already died due to the disease, Gov. Douglas Cagas said the province remains ASF-free.

“I would like to emphasize that Davao del Sur is still ASF-free. And we are exerting appropriate measures to prevent the entry of the disease in our area of responsibility,” Cagas said in an interview after meeting with stakeholders and officials of neighboring provinces on Wednesday afternoon.

Cagas said biosecurity measures have been established in four entry and exit points in the province, and that health and law enforcement personnel are working round the clock to ensure that ASF-infected swine cannot enter Davao del Sur.

Davao del Sur is the main entry point for land transportation for those coming from Cotabato City; Kidapawan City in North Cotabato; General Santos City, and neighboring areas in South Cotabato; Davao Occidental; and Davao City.

“We are duty-bound to protect the livestock industry in Davao del Sur that could ruin the local economy; hence, we have to be strict in dealing with the threat from the disease,” Cagas said.

Dr. Rusell Celis, Davao del Sur veterinary chief categorically told representatives from Davao City, North Cotabato, Sarangani Province, and South Cotabato who attended the meeting to ascertain that pigs transported to any point in Mindanao passing Davao del Sur must bear the required livestock inspection certificate signed by licensed veterinary officers from their point of origins.

Celis said places with no reports of suspected ASF cases will be allowed to pass through the quarantine stations provided they possess the necessary documents.

“You could pass as long as the place of origin has no records of ASF disease. But if the transported pigs come from areas with confirmed ASF cases, and even there are suspected ASF infection, that is another story, for we will not let you enter our territory,” Celis told representatives from different provinces.

Celis said the checkpoints and the quarantine station are situated at the boundary of Malalag town in Davao del Sur, and the municipality of Sta. Maria in Davao Occidental.

Ricardo Oñate, DA-11 regional director who was also present during the meeting, said the livestock auction site in Kilometer 80 of the Digos-Makar National Highway in Sulop town in Davao del Sur has been closed beginning Thursday (February 6).

The provincial government of Davao Occidental declared on Tuesday (February 4) a state of calamity due to the confirmed ASF in Don Marcelino town.

Gov. Claude Bautista urged the barangay officials to strictly comply with the control measures, such as the temporary banning of the entry and exit of live pigs and their products including pork meat in the whole province.

Bautista also urged the residents to surrender their hogs for proper disposal. He also committed to providing counterpart funding to the local government units to ensure that all pigs -- dead or alive -- are surrendered by their owners.

The governor has formed a task force to conduct a thorough accounting of all existing pigs in Davao Occidental for collection as he urged the community to religiously cooperate through by surrendering their hogs to their local officials.

The Department of Agriculture said it will pay PHP5,000 per head of pigs surrendered to the authorities in Davao Occidental regardless of size or age, except suckling pigs. (PNA)