THE bird flu crisis that affected three towns in Central Luzon is over, the Department of Agriculture announced on Monday.
This means all poultry products from those areas are safe for human consumption, officials said.
Facing a budget hearing at the Senate, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the quarantine that covered a 7-kilometer “controlled area radius” in the towns of San Luis, Pampanga and Jaen and San Isidro in Nueva Ecija had been lifted.
He said the 21-day incubation period lapsed without any new reported case of avian flu in other areas, which triggered the lifting of the quarantine.
Piñol however admitted there was no assurance that there would be no new cases of bird flu.
The Cabinet official signed the memorandum lifting the ban on the movement of poultry products and poultry by-products from the 7-kilometer avian flu controlled zone on August 31.
“I am not an expert on bird flu but in the three to four weeks that I confronted this problem I learned a lot about the bird flu virus,” Piñol told senators.
He said the absence of new bird flu cases in other areas means the strain that infected farms in the three Central Luzon towns had been contained and neutralized.
“We would know if there are new cases because we strengthened our monitoring and surveillance. In fact, I have directed all regional directors to conduct sampling of all farms all over the country to ease public concern,” he said.
The bird flu outbreak started in April 17, but was only reported to the public on August 3. The Agriculture department confirmed the presence of bird flu on August 10 after receiving information from the Australian Health Laboratory, an accredited laboratory of the World Health Organization.
Over 600,000 fowls within the 1-kilometer quarantine zone were culled to contain the virus.
Sen. Cynthia Villar asked the Agriculture department to look for ways to provide bigger fund allocations to the livestock, poultry and dairy sector as well as to crops and fisheries – the three biggest agriculture producers in the country.
Of the department’s proposed P107-billion 2018 budget, eight percent is allotted to crops; two percent to livestock, poultry and dairy; and six percent to fisheries under the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Poultry alone has a P2-billion budget, Villar noted.
Villar questioned the P400-million allocation to the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), which she said was too big.
PhilMech is in charge of research and creation of prototypes of equipment and machines for use in agriculture, but the equipment will be purchased from the private sector.
Villar said she had yet to see any accomplishment by PhilMech, adding it would be better to reallocate the money to livestock, particularly poultry.
“Poultry is currently in a pitiful situation due to the avian flu (outbreak),” Villar said.