The African Swine Fever (ASF) virus has been detected in cans of Sky Dragon luncheon meat which were brought in from Hong Kong last March 25 and were confiscated at the Clark International Airport in Clark field, Pampanga from a returning Filipino.
According to Dr. Rachel R. Azul, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) of the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Animal Industry’s (DA-BAI) Virulogy Section, the viral DNA was found in the pork luncheon meat after it was examined using the latest testing procedures that are accepted globally.
“This assay is one of two validated PCR procedures described in the OIE Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals. It was developed by Donald King et al. (2003) at the Institute for Animal Health (now the Pirbright Institute and ASF Reference Laboratory) and validated in the same laboratory and at the Veterinary Laboratory Agency, both in the United Kingdom,” Azul explained.
So far, the agriculture official said, no ASF infections have been reported in pigs in the country.
“The detection of the virus in seized products does not change the Philippines’ African Swine Fever-free status,” she said.
“The detection of the virus in seized products does not change the Philippines’ African Swine Fever-free status.”
“The seizure is a warning for the industry and an acknowledgment of the catastrophic threat on our doorsteps,” Azul added.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol reiterated his warning against bringing pork and pork products from ASF-infected countries into the Philippines.
“Kung nakalusot po ito at naipakain sa mga alagang baboy ang tira-tira, maaaring kumalat ang sakit sa ating mga babuyan at magiging sanhi ng pagkasira ng ating hog industry (If this product went through and eventually found its way to local pigs, the disease could have spread here and resulted in the destruction of the local hog industry,” Piñol said.
“Doon po sa mga nagsasabing nag-o-over react lang kami at nagrereklamo sa mga mahigpit na quarantine protocols, ito po ang patunay na meron talaga tayong kinakaharap na panganib. Huwag na po tayong maging pilosopo at matigas ang ulo. Sumunod po tayo sa mga quarantine officers sa mga airport. Bawal na po magpasok ng mga delata at processed pork products sa bansa (Those who say we are over-reacting and complain of strict protocols, this is proof of the danger we face. Don’t be a smart aleck and just comply with our quarantine procedures. Bringing in canned pork is forbidden at this time),” the agriculture chief added.
“Just comply with our quarantine procedures.”
Meanwhile, the agriculture head said President Rodrigo Duterte has already approved the use of the Quick Reaction Fund (QRF) of the DA for the emergency procurement of 20 units of X-ray machines that will be placed in all international airports of the country to check agricultural products, especially meat items, brought in by passengers.
In the proposal submitted by the DA, a total of P130 million from the QRF will be used for the immediate purchase of the X-ray equipment and the implementation of additional safeguards against the entry of agricultural products through airports.
The DA-BAI has also already deployed sniffing dogs in major airports as a deterrent.
Piñol however, maintained that the country’s quarantine measures should be stricter to prevent the entry of animal diseases, such as the devastating ASF.
The DA, he added, will be implementing stringent quarantine measures comparable to those in advanced agricultural countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the United States.