FARMERS from San Luis, Pampanga, whose chickens, ducks and quails were culled as part of efforts to contain the spread of the avian influenza virus would be compensated starting on Tuesday, August 22, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said on Saturday.
“On Friday, August 18, following clearance from the Department of Budget and Management, the Agriculture department central office downloaded to DAF Region 3 P31 million in calamity funds to cover the payment,” Pinol said in a post on his Facebook account.
“The amount will be the first in a series of releases to be made by government through the Agriculture department to cover the losses of the farmers,” the Agriculture chief added.
Piñol visited the town of San Luis last Tuesday to hand the first checks to farmers as a proof of President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to help poultry, duck and quail raisers recover from the calamity.
He said an estimated 300,000 birds will be covered by the first tranche of payment.
“In addition to the compensation for the birds which were culled, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is also preparing grants and loans through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council for farm workers who will be jobless because of the closure of the farms,” Pinol added.
The Agriculture department earlier assured farmers that they would be compensated to be able to help them recover.
Piñol said the culling of virus-infected fowl ended on Saturday.
“By the end of this day, the tedious and difficult task of culling almost half a million chicken, quails and ducks in San Luis, Pampanga, and its periphery will be over,” he added.
According to Piñol, a total of 214,506 birds (chicken, ducks, quails) involving 29 farms inside the seven-kilometer controlled radius whose owners volunteered to support the clean-up were culled on Saturday.
“The last remaining farm inside the 1-kilometer contained radius is expected to be cleared today by volunteers, mostly members of the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army,” he said.
“An estimated 500,000 fowls within the seven-kilometer and one-kilometer radius would be culled by the end of the day today,” the Agriculture chief added.
“With San Luis, Pampanga cleared by today, our bio-security teams will now focus on Jaen and San Isidro, Nueva Ecija and complete the clean-up operations,” Piñol said.
As requested by the Agriculture department, the military’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) also on Saturday deployed a contingent to San Isidro to cull chickens there.
According to Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, Nolcom spokesman, 137 military personnel from the 7th Infantry Division were sent to San Isidro Municipal Hall in Neuva Ecija at 6 a.m.
He said a request for additional troops in the flu-infected province came from the Bureau of Animal Industry, an agency under the DA, after it confirmed that San Isidro and Jaen are infected with the bird disease.
In Pampanga, troops have culled a total of 27,055 of the 600,000 chickens infected with bird flu.
An estimated 40,000 to 70,000 infected fowl are yet to be culled by military troops with assistance coming from the DA, the Office of Civil Defense in Central Luzon and San Luis, Pampanga’s Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
Almost 30,000 poultry heads were depopulated in all poultry farms within the quarantine zone in the first two days of operations starting August 17.
The culling was done by 303 military personnel from the Nolcom.
According to Pinol, at least 600,000 poultry heads have to be culled to prevent spillover of the disease outbreak.
NEIL A. ALCOBER AND DEMPSEY REYES