Senate to pass resolution on state of calamity over ASF crisis

Senator Francis Pangilinan has reassured worried Filipino hog-raisers the Senate will pass tomorrow, March 15, the resolution urging President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a state of calamity due to what he described as COVID of pigs.

Pangilinan made the statement Saturday after senators agreed Wednesday with his resolution urging the Department of Agriculture to recommend to the President the declaration of a state of calamity due to ASF or African Swine Fever.

On Thursday, the former food security baron, in an online consultation, met with agriculture stakeholders in Isabela who told him that over 80 percent of the pigs culled in Cagayan Valley were from the province.

He told them the Senate was scheduled to pass his proposed Senate Resolution 676, which cites the possible use of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund and Quick Response Fund to supplement the DA’s efforts to contain and manage ASF.

According to Cagayan Valley Regional Director Narciso Edillo, only four of the 37 towns in Isabela remained ASF-free with other towns already infected.

Edillo said the region still owed hog-raisers P169 million for the culled pigs, adding the Department of Budget and Management had thus far not released the fund.

Dominador Lamug, municipal agriculturist of San Agustin in Isabela and representative of the San Agustin Dairy Farm, reported that hog-raisers were struggling to start over.

Pangilinan proposed that hog-raisers be the priority in hiring for cash-for-work programs related to ASF.

As of December 2020, the ASF outbreak – blamed for the spike in retail prices of pork due to dwindling supply in Luzon – cost the Philippine swine industry P56 billion.

Earlier in the week, the Senate committee on agriculture and food called on the government to declare a national state of emergency amid the ASF outbreak which has reportedly resulted in about P50 billion in swine industry losses.

The panel, headed by Senator Cynthia Villar, approved a motion issued by Pangilinan for a declaration of a state of emergency in Luzon so that public funds might be realigned to address the outbreak.

National Federation of Hog Farmers chairman Chester Warren Tan then suggested the declaration should cover not just Luzon but the entire Philippines.

The senators agreed to the proposal.

Villar also backed a proposal to compensate hog farmers whose pigs get hit by ASF.

“I was telling the Department of Agriculture that they should pay the culling,” she added.

The DA earlier extended the price ceiling on pork and chicken to April 8, citing its effectiveness in preventing price surges, particularly in Metro Manila.

“We will maintain it until April 8. Lifting it will undeniably result in dramatic rise in prices of pork and chicken, given that the African Swine Fever crisis is still raging and thus continues to impact on local production of hogs nationwide,” Agriculture secretary William Dar said.

Dar cited the need to augment the current shortfall, estimated at 400,000 metric tons, by stocking up imports from countries free from ASF.

Importation, he said, may temper the rising inflation rate which stood at 4.7 percent in February – the highest in 26 months – as more affordable protein sources become available.

The Agriculture department rejected the suggestion of hog raisers to raise the price ceiling given that actual prices remain higher.

“By maintaining it (price ceiling), the government will send a strong signal to Filipino consumers who suffer from lower incomes due to the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economy, that it does care about their welfare,” Dar said.

“Hog producers, wholesalers, and retailers are no less expected to do their share in helping the country’s economic recovery effort,” he added.

DA data showed the total hog and carcass deliveries from various regions to Metro Manila have reached 127,868 heads and 823,673 kilograms of carcass from February 8 to March 7, 2021.

Pork shipment to Metro Manila from nearby provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Regions 1, 2, 8, and 13 have been hampered due to insufficient supply of hogs.

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