TOTAL LOCKDOWN. Department of Agriculture in Davao Region director Ricardo Oñate (3rd from left) leads a meeting on Wednesday with officials of Davao del Sur South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Cotabato City, Davao Occidental and Davao City to discuss matters pertaining to the preventive measures initiated to prevent the entry of pigs possibly infected with ASF from Davao Occidental. Oñate also announced the temporary closure of a livestock auction site in Sulop town, Davao del Sur. (PNA photo by Eldie S. Aguirre)

DIGOS CITY – A popular livestock auction site in Sulop town in Davao del Sur has been temporarily shut down starting Wednesday to prevent possible infection and spread of the African swine fever (ASF) in the province.

Ricardo Oñate, director of Department of Agriculture in Davao Region (DA-11), said he already coordinated with Sulop Mayor Jose Jimmy Sagareno about the move as part of the agency's measure to contain the ASF infection in neighboring Davao Occidental.

Continuing the auction of the animals could trigger infestation not only in Davao del Sur but in other areas as well, Oñate said.

“I already told the mayor to conduct a meeting with all the peddlers in the auction site, and explain to them about the relevance of the action to protect their place from the ASF that could ruin their trade in the future,” Oñate said at the Davao del Sur Coliseum where he and local officials met to discuss the ASF outbreak in Davao Occidental.

Oñate said DA will find a way to give financial assistance to the swine peddlers locally known as “bukag-bukag” during the duration of the auction site's temporary closure.

The auction market is a popular among backyard livestock raisers for its strategic location on the Digos-Makar Road leading to General Santos City, and on the Western side, the road leading to Davao Occidental.

The motorcycle-riding swine peddlers usually brought their stocks from the towns of Davao Occidental, which is under total lockdown for movement of hogs and pork meat due to ASF infestation.

“We will do our part by helping those who will be affected by the closure of the auction site because it is our duty to provide financial assistance so that their families will not be suffering from hunger,” Oñate said.

DA reports said about 6,000 pigs died from the disease in Don Marcelino town alone.

Davao Occidental Gov. Claude Bautista has formed a task force consisting of village and local officials tasked to help contain the contagion. Task force members are also tasked to conduct an intensive accounting of all remaining swine in the province so that it would be turned over to the authorities for culling and proper disposal.

Municipal officials in the province were also ordered to initiate punitive action against residents who defy the directive to turn over their hogs. The majority of pigs in the province come from backyard hog raisers, DA said.

Davao Occidental is composed of five municipalities -- Sta. Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos, and the town of Sarangani. (PNA)