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Piol places entire PHL under bird-flu monitoring

Monday, August 14, 2017 11:45 PM Views : 18

By:Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas & Elijah Felice E. Rosales
In Photo: A man sells live chicken on a street in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija, for P90 each, amid reports that
an outbreak of bird flu has hit the nearby province of Pampanga, causing prices of chicken to drop in
some areas, including Balintawak Market, where vendors are selling at P120 per kilo from around P140
to P150 prior to the reported outbreak.

The government will regularly inspect all livestock and poultry farms nationwide, after the Philippines
recorded its first avian influenza (AI) outbreak, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piol said on Monday.

Piol directed Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Livestock Enrico P. Garzon Jr. to form a biosecurity
team that would determine if the country's livestock and poultry farmswhether backyard or
commercial onesare compliant with biosecurity measures.

"I will ask the BAI [Bureau of Animal Industry] to impose this in all farms, not only in Central Luzon, but
all over the country. If you have a poultry farm, for example, you are automatically part of the
investigation," Piol said in a news briefing on Monday.

"We are talking about biosecurity because we are dealing with food here. Nobody will be exempted in
what we are going to do and we will institutionalize this," he added.

Piol said he would release a memorandum circular or order formalizing the creation of the biosecurity

"This order takes effect immediately. The team will inspect the cleanliness of all farms producing
chicken, duck eggs and hogs," he added.

Piol said a biosecurity team could have averted the spread of bird flu in two barangays in San Luis,
Pampanga, where 37,000 fowls were killed by the virus.

"We will be stricter now and learn from this incident. If we had a biosecurity team that inspects farms,
then we could have discovered [AI] as early as May," he added.

Piol said the Department of Agriculture (DA) is looking into the culpability of the regional directors and
even veterinarians in Region 3.

He added the DA is mulling over setting up of a hotline where farmers could ask experts about animal
diseases. "It is one of our flaws that we didn't have a hotline. The farmers want to report but do not
know where and how."

Agriculture Undersecretary for Operations Ariel T. Cayanan said it is the responsibility of poultry owners
and farmers to inform their respective regional veterinary offices if they observe an "unusual rate of
mortality" among their animals.

"Of course. They are not veterinarians, so if we ask for symptoms they will give different observations,"
Cayanan said.
"But the moment they observe the death of their animals is not normal or exceeds a certain mortality
rate, then, automatically, they should report that," he added.

Cayanan said DA officials will meet with all regional directors to standardize and institutionalize the
manner of reporting the outbreak of animal diseases.

"There's no clear penalty for not reporting outbreaks, but you now see the repercussion of [hiding it],"
he added.

Earlier Piol disclosed that symptoms of AI were observable as early as end-April but were reported to
the DA only this month, after some farms recorded a high mortality rate. The DA said Barangay San
Carlos and Barangay Santa Rita in San Luis are considered as the ground zero of the outbreak.

The DA will be culling and burying 200,000 more fowls around the 1-kilometer radius of ground zero to
contain the disease to the area. As of Monday the DA has managed to cull only 18,685 fowls.

"There was a bit delay because you know this is the first time we are experiencing this problem, and,
obviously, a lot of people still do not understand what should be done and how these problems should
be handled," Piol said.

"It was reported to me that some workers, after being immunized, didn't anymore show up for the
burying of the dead chicken. They thought it was harmful to them," he added.

BAI's National Avian Influenza Focal Person Arlene Asteria V. Vytiaco said they are now targeting to
finish culling 181,315 birds by Thursday.

"We had a problem with manpower. We lacked people who will do the culling," Vytiaco added.

"Also, due to misinformation on the risks, out of the 30 people we briefed, only five appeared and
participated. They thought it is dangerous, and they will be quarantined," she said.

Government assistance

Piol said the DA will allot P50 million to provide assistance to growers affected by the bird-flu outbreak.
The bulk of the amount will be extended to farmers in the form of loans.

"I have asked the Agricultural Credit Policy Council to prepare a P25,000 loan assistance under the
Survival and Recovery loan package. We will offer this to the farmers of Pampanga within the 1-
kilometer contained area and 7-km controlled area," Piol said.

"Farmers will get P25,000, P5,000 of which is government grant, while the remaining P20,000 will be a
no-collateral, no-interest loan, payable in two years. This is on top of the calamity assistance we will give
them," he added.

Piol also said the DA and the farmers affected by the AI outbreak in San Luis, Pampanga has agreed on
a compensation of P80 for every bird culled in the process of containing the disease.
"Pampanga Gov. Lilia B. Pineda and San Luis Mayor Venancio Macapagal are also okay with the
compensation. So if you're talking about 200,000 birds, that's about P16 million," he added.

The DA chief said no new bird- flu outbreaks have been recorded outside of San Luis. Malacaang also
vowed to throw in all efforts to support poultry farmers as they weather for the first time an outbreak of
the AI virus.

In a news briefing on Monday, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto C. Abella said that, while the
government's primary concern is the safety of consumers, its long-term concern is the livelihood of
affected farmers. "Our long-term concern is to sustain and support our local poultry industry, as it
weathers this first-time crisis," Abella said.

Abella added the government, headed by the DA, is working closely with poultry farmers and producers
"to eliminate the problem soonest".

He said the end goal is to restore the country's chicken exports to their premium position in
international markets.

San Miguel Purefoods Co. Inc. has postponed the shipment of around 200 metric tons of chicken
products to Japan due to the avian-flu outbreak in San Luis, Pampanga.