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EDITORIAL: Marginalizing Backyard Farming

Late as it may be, formation of the Task Force On Infectious Diseases is a step in the right direction. The coverage of the term is too wide and therefore vague. For practical intents and purposes focus should be on specific concerns.

In the case of the Bicol region, what seems to be of primordial concern is the African Swine Fever (ASF) which of late has caused an atmosphere of panic. Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) cases, providentially, have not been reported to be of worrisome level. Region V is still free from the reemergence of Polio.

But when it comes to the African Swine Fever (ASF) the situation is disturbing not only health wise but more so, on the agricultural sector—the most neglected contributor to the overall economic condition of the country.

That it is very alarming is understandable given that pork prices have dramatically gone down. People are scared to eat pork because of the panic created partly due to the reactionary response to the enforcement of a lockdown and due to the failure of the information drive by government personnel tasked to assure the people that meat from ASF –infected pigs is safe for human consumption.

The jumpy response of concerned government offices has largely affected the worsening plight of the ailing swine industry.

On the part of LGU Naga, the Integrated Area Development (IAD) approach of planning and management, a brainchild of the late Local Government Secretary Jess M. Robredo which he introduced during his occupancy of the city’s mayoralty post, seems to have been totally ignored or abandoned. Bombon, Magarao and Calabanga towns are supposed to be part of the Metro Naga Development Area which is operationalized by the Metro Naga Development Council. Or has the integrated area concept been buried together with Robredo?

Lockdown is supposed to prevent the spread of the ASF virus and those hogs determined to have already been infected are sentenced to be culled and buried alive. What a cruel way of treating animals that are raised in order to be a source of livelihood.

The anti ASF lockdown may briefly stem the virus spread. In the long run it cannot prevent the plague. It is a reactionary leadership response. Culling the ailing pigs and burying them alive will render the affected small scale swine raisers economically deprived.

Expecting to end the virus through lockdowns is a low brainer. They are prone to corruption and negligence taking under consideration that human factor is involved. Fixing the value of the pigs identified for culling purposes is very susceptible to bribery unless full proof protocols are put in place. Too much discretion is left to the personnel involved.

As to negligence, if a picture speaks a thousand words the very photos published by this weekly, show that checkpoints installed are not even manned, presumably because the persons involved also need to rest and earn a living in addition to guarding their post.

Otherwise, how come that the virus continues to spread? There is no substitute to a vaccine against the virus. The Bureau of Animal Industry of the Department of Agriculture has a troop of veterinary experts and scientists. Funds should be released for scientific efforts not only to contain the spread of the virus but to prevent its recurrence, by vaccination.

Hog depopulation has no proactive vision. How will the killed pigs be replenished? Where shall replacement come from, at what cost? How will the consuming public be encouraged to eat pork again? A more holistic approach is missing.

Backyard swine raising is being marginalized to give way to large scale hog production and eventually lead to the inevitable - - importation.

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