IF the prevalence of COVID-19 pandemic is not yet bad enough, there is also now a Senate proposal to put the entire country under a state of emergency due to an African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak, which has already cost about P50 billion in losses to the swine industry and pushed pork market prices higher. None of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) measures seem to be working.
On the motion of Senator Francis Pangilinan, the Senate moved that the Department of Agriculture (DA) recommend to the Office of the President the declaration of a state of emergency in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao because of ASF so that public funds may be realigned to address the state of emergency. The motion was duly seconded by Senator Nancy Binay and supported by the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, Senator Cynthia Villar.
Such a call was made after industry leaders said that measures being implemented and proposed by the DA – such as the implementation of a price ceiling and the plan to bring down the tariff on imported pork – are either not working or are detrimental to local hog industry.
ASF has already resulted in the death and culling of more than 500,000 hogs in the country. But some stakeholders have suggested that more hogs have been affected by the virus. Many small hog raisers already decided to shift into other livelihoods.
The dreaded virus was first detected in the Philippines in 2019, and it pushed pork prices higher amid falling stocks, especially in Luzon. The DA is dealing with the rising prices through various measures such as a price cap on pork in Metro Manila and proposals to bring down the tariff on pork imports and increase the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) allocation on the commodity.
Industry leaders, however think that both moves are detrimental to the local hog industry, especially the one that will pave the way for the entry of more imported pork.
Senator Pangilinan said a presidential declaration of a state of emergency would provide additional funding for local hog raisers. He recalled that a declaration of a state of emergency was issued by Malacanang during the onslaught of the cocolisap infestation in 2014, enabling governments to reallocate funds to address the outbreak that had cost damage to the industry estimated at P33 billion.
During the Senate hearing, former Congressman Nicanor Briones of the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (AGAP) also suggested including in the motion an indemnification fund for infected hogs of ASF. This would be most welcome aid to the country’s hog raisers and encourage them to help keep up the industry in its time of greatest need.