ASF in Bicol on a downtrend: DA set to implement recovery, rehabilitation and repopulation

The African Swine Fever in Bicol is on a downtrend. This was noted by the members of the Regional Quick Response Team for Animal Disease Emergencies (RQRT) of the Department of Agriculture during its recent regular meeting. Based on the reported ASF cases as confirmed by laboratory tests from a high of 76 cases in January this year it went down to 47 in February, dived to 6 in March and went down to 3 in April and 2 this May.


Since the 1st outbreak of ASF in Camarines Sur on February 21, 2020 there have already been 64 infected municipalities in the 6 provinces of the region. This represents 56% of the total 114 municipalities. Thirty four (34) municipalities have no reported cases but are considered pink zone since they are adjacent to infected zones; 10 are free zones and 6 are protected zones.


As of May 24 this year a cumulative total of 22, 026 heads of hogs have been depopulated owned by 3, 546 raisers. Of these 14,296 pigs owned by 2, 614 raisers have been indemnified by the Department of Agriculture totaling to P71,480,000 million. The DBM has just released another P8.885 million and an additional P7.350 million which are for obligation to be used for indemnification for the remaining unpaid hog raisers whose hogs were depopulated in the Bicol region.


The last province to be infected by the ASF is the island province of Masbate but the spread of the disease was immediately an effectively contained and limited to only three municipalities and 10 barangays after Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla immediately deployed two teams of technical staff who assisted in the monitoring, surveillance, depopulation and information dissemination campaign.


“Early reporting is vital for an immediate, coordinated and efficient response and enforcement of control measures, “says Rosita Imperial, chief of the Regulatory Division and also a member of the RQRT.


“The successful control efforts also lie with the strong collaboration between the DA, the LGUs, partner -agencies and stakeholders,” adds Dr. Josefina Banadera. Some local chief executives in Masbate and Albay provided assistance in cash or in kind to affected farmers in addition to the indemnification provided by the DA.


The putting up checkpoints which are really manned by authorized and knowledgeable personnel strategically located within the province and the issuance of Executive Orders and ordinances by the LCES restricting entry of viajeros or designating only one pickup area also contributed to curbing the further spread of the virus, says Dr. Alex Templonuevo, OIC - Regional Director of the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS).


“With this slowdown or downtrend we are now set to implement the Recovery, Rehabilitation and Repopulation Assistance Program for ASF-Affected and Non-ASF –Affected Areas following the guidelines stipulated in Administrative Order No. 6 issued by DA Secretary William D. Dar on February 10 this year.” This was the statement of Dr. Edgar A. Madrid, Regional Technical Director for Research and Regulations and incident commander of RQRT.


The primary objective of this program is to release an area or zone from “quarantine” following successive negative surveillance results in the Quarantine Zone; to restore livelihood and economic activities in red zones; increase resilience and capacities of pork producers in managing future disease outbreaks and guide commercial farms in their recovery, rehabilitation and repopulation efforts.


Release from quarantine to recovery would entail compliance with cleaning and proper disinfection procedures and observance of 30 days downtime to further decrease the area’s bacterial load and the risk of residual ASF virus. Environmental sampling or bioassay will be conducted through collection of samples from well water, topsoil, burial site, surfaces of pens, canals, pathways feeds etc. Two screening a week apart will be done. If results are negative the farm qualifies to receive sentinel animals.


To date the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory has diagnosed 9,433 animals; conducted 1,945 field investigation, collected and submitted for analysis 8,088 samples of blood, organs, meat & tissues and conducted 1,266 environmental swab.


The initial number of the restocking animals to be distributed through eligible beneficiaries shall be determined by the TWG created by the DA Regional Office for the purpose. Previously ASF-infected municipalities would qualify for progressive upgrading from RED to PINK zone if they have successfully implemented “Bantay ASF sa Barangay” Program. This is a community-based approach to prevent, control, and manage ASF applying sound epidemiologic principles; intensified risk assessment, surveillance and monitoring, stringent biosecurity implementation and use of available technology such as the use of ASF rapid test kits in cooperation with the LGUs and swine raisers.


Based on Administrative 0rder No.6 issued recently by Agriculture secretary Dar local declaration of ASF free status at the city/municipal level shall be done by the Provincial Veterinary Office while local declaration at the provincial level shall be done by the DA Regional Executive Director upon the recommendation of the Regional Quarantine Officer and submission of documentary evidences.


The RQRT Bicol has initially identified and classified 14 ASF-infected municipalities which have no reported ASF case for the past 90 days as gray zones where environmental samples were taken and tested. Those areas with negative results after the second screening will be eligible for the deployment of sentinel pigs.


The Bureau of Animal Industry through its Regional Veterinary Quarantine Office has 23 existing and operational veterinary quarantine checkpoints all over the region even prior to the outbreak of the ASF in Bicol. From March last year to May 25 this year it has confiscated/condemned 106 heads of hogs and prevented the entry and ordered return to origin some 2,128 heads of pigs and 67,730 kg of meat. The Regional Veterinary Quarantine Office has likewise condemned and confiscated a total of 38,807 kilograms of meat and meat products. The National Meat Inspection Service in the region on the other hand, has confiscated a total of 450,331 kilograms of meat and meat products and 25 heads hogs. (EMILY B. BORDADO/DA –RFO RAFIS-5)