• Duterte eats balut, barbecued chicken to dispel flu fears

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    SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga: President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday led a “boodle fight” of chicken dishes to show that it is safe to eat poultry products amid the avian flu outbreak in the province.

    Former president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol and local government officials joined Duterte in the boodle fight.

    CHICKEN BOODLE President Rodrigo Duterte (left), accompanied by former president Gloria Macapagal (center) Arroyo, representative of Pampanga’s second district, and Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda (right) eat chicken and balut (duck embryo) in San Fernando, Pampanga to calm public fears following an outbreak of avian flu. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

    Served on top of a long table covered by banana leaves were chicken barbecue, fried chicken, fried duck eggs and balut or duck embryo.

    Duterte said the government has been successful in containing the bird flu outbreak in parts of Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.

    “I assure the public that the poultry products in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija are safe for consumption and that we, in government, are undertaking efforts to stamp out the outbreak and minimize its impact in the country,” Duterte said in his remarks.

    Duterte commended the officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) “for their quick and decisive action in squarely confronting and containing the avian flu outbreak.”

    He thanked the officials and the people of the provinces of Pampanga and Nueva Ecija “for their solidarity and cooperation in quickly stamping out avian flu in the affected areas.”

    The President also acknowledged the more than 300 soldiers and police officers for their help in culling infected fowl and enforcing a quarantine.

    The avian influenza outbreak was first reported in a poultry farm in Barangay San Agustin in San Luis, Pampanga, in April. The outbreak was announced only on August 16.

    A farm in Jaen and another in San Isidro in Nueva Ecija were also infected by the virus, later found to be of the H5N6 strain that could transfer to humans.

    To help the industry recover, the President said the DA would assist poultry raisers in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija “to defray their losses through interventions such as loans and capacity-building trainings.”

    Duterte said he would request extra funding from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation for the poultry industry.

    “But again, let me just say to you that we are very sorry to disturb your livelihood, the events here because we had to do it. It’s the duty of the government to safeguard really, the spread of the avian flu,” he said.

    The government has released P29 million to compensate poultry farmers in San Luis, Pampanga and in Jaen and San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, Piñol said on Monday.

    “The P29 million is the first payment to be released of the total P43.31 million which the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will release to all farmers in the area whose fowls were killed,” the Agriculture chief said in a post on his Facebook account.

    The Agricultural Credit Policy Council also turned over to the Rural Bank of San Luis P20 million which will be released as assistance to farm workers and farmers affected by the outbreak.

    with NEIL ALCOBER

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