THE lack of funds is hindering the Department of Agriculture from totally eradicating the foot-and-mouth disease in the country, an official of the department said.

Undersecretary Cesar Drilon, at a forum Tuesday, also said that the agriculture department particularly lacks indemnity funds to be given to farmers affected by FMD. The lack of fund results in a longer time for the department to get rid of the disease.

“Usually farmers do not report cases of FMD in their areas, because their businesses will suffer if authorities destroy their livestock infected by the disease. But by giving indemnity funds, livestock growers could work hand in hand with the [department] in fighting [the disease],” Drilon said.

He said, however, that the country is now in the final phase of eradicating the disease.

Drilon said that since last year, the agriculture department has been requesting for a P40-million indemnity fund to assist farmers that would come from the national government, in addition to the $1.1-million grant already given by foreign governments in March.

The department is also asking for a P10-million fund to be spent on monitoring and surveillance of FMD outbreaks in the country.

Drilon said that they had identified Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog as endemic areas, and had vaccinated 2 million pigs. He reported a 70-percent reduction in cases of FMD outbreaks in 2004 compared to last year.

Agriculture officials said the government is having a hard time in its drive against FMD, especially in its vaccination campaign without the help of the private sector.

The department also said big commercial farms can conduct free vaccination to hogs raised by small-scale growers near their areas to ensure that their surroundings are FMD-free.

If declared by the World Animal Health Organization an FMD-free country, the Philippines will finally be allowed to export meat and meat products to other countries, which is expected to boost the livestock industry and the economy.

Drilon said, however, that once the Philippines is declared FMD-free, the agriculture department will soon launch a campaign against hog cholera, another obstacle in the country’s export plans.