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Duterte oks use of contingency fund

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the release of his office’s contingency fund to contain the threat of African swine fever (ASF) in the country, Malacañang said on Thursday.

President Rodrigo Duterte

In a statement, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte approved the release during the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday following the request of Agriculture Secretary William Dar to use the remaining contingency fund of the Office of the President to address ASF.

“To address the issue on African swine fever, the Chief Executive approved Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s request to use the remaining contingent fund of the Office of the President for the indemnification of hog raisers, and designate cold storage areas in the Ports of Manila, Subic, Batangas, Cebu and Davao for 100-percent monitoring of meat products entry,” Panelo said.

The Palace official did not give an estimate of the funds to be released to the Department of Agriculture.

In September, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P82.5 million in funds to the Bureau of Animal Industry, an attached agency of DA, for the implementation of measures that aim to prevent the further spread of ASF in the country.

Of the amount, DBM said P31.8 million would be appropriated for the maintenance of security measures at international airports, particularly for the detection of meat and meat products, while P27.7 million would be used for the testing of samples of meat and meat products.

Another P17.6 million will be used for surveillance and monitoring activities, and the
remaining P5.4 million will be used for the conduct of awareness campaigns and capacity building initiatives, it added.

The approval of the release of contingency fund came after the Philippine government confirmed outbreaks of ASF in Caloocan and Malabon, as well as in 22 cities and municipalities in Pampanga and Bulacan, including commercial farms in four areas.

In a notification to the World Organization for Animal Health, the Philippines disclosed 40,480 pigs were susceptible to ASF in 24 outbreaks in Pampanga, Bulacan, Caloocan and Malabon, which affected mostly backyard farms in 140 barangay (villages).

Of the total figure, 555 pigs were considered cases or already affected by ASF, while 177 pigs died due to the fatal disease, according to the Philippine report.

ASF can’t infect humans and is not considered a food safety risk, but it can be spread indirectly through people’s clothing, footwear, vehicles, farm equipment and livestock feed.

During Wednesday’s press briefing in Malacañang, ASF task force’s Reildrin Morales expressed confidence that ASF in the country could eventually be eradicated, especially if backyard raisers, traders and the public cooperate with the government.

“If farmers observe biosecurity measures, a farm could avoid being infected,” Morales said.
ASF has so far resulted in the death and culling of nearly 70,000 hogs in Cavite, Quezon City, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Antipolo and Rizal.

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