𝘼𝙏 𝘼 𝘿𝙐𝙂-𝙐𝙋 𝙋𝙄𝙏 𝙉𝙀𝘼𝙍 𝙏𝙃𝙀 𝘽𝘼𝙉𝙆 𝙊𝙁 𝙄𝙇𝙄 𝙍𝙄𝙑𝙀𝙍, 11 dead and dying pigs, stunned with the use of an electrofishing device, were buried on Dec. 29, 2020 as part of the non-selective depopulation measure being implemented by the Virac ASF Task Force against the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the capital town.
Beginning with the one-kilometer radius from the first epicenter at the Catanduanes State University’s pig pens, the Virac Municipal African Swine Fever Task Force began the depopulation of otherwise healthy pigs found within the quarantine zones last week.
Task force officials, accompanied by two police officers and personnel of the Municipal Environmebnt and Natural Resources Office (MENRO)-Solid Waste Management Office (SWMO), visited backyard pigpens identified to be within the quarantine zone: one in San Isidro Village near the Kemji Resort and Restaurant and eight in Danicop.
Four other backyard raisers in Calatagan Tibang were no longer included from the inspection as their swine had already been sold or slaughtered prior to the issuance of the order to conduct pre-emptive culling.
A technician of the Municipal Agriculture Office, clad in while plastic PPE, used an improvised electro-shock device powered by a motorcycle battery to stun three pigs in San Isidro Village as well as 11 others in eight separate pig pens in Danicop that were being raised by eight backyard raisers.
The culled pigs in San Isidro Village were buried in a shallow pit near its pig pen while the unconscious or dead animals in Danicop were hauled by MENRO-SWM personnel on board a pickup truck to its burial site at the bank of the river near the barangay’s boundary with Calatagan Tibang.
The operation that was conducted the other Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, did not go peacefully as hoped, although all of the backyard swine raisers agreed to the culling and signed the required forms that would be used in the payment of compensation at P5,000 for each animal.
In Danicop, a man who introduced himself as a licensed butcher who had worked as farm manager for a New Zealand piggery objected to the depopulation, saying that he pitied the poor farmers who depended on backyard hog raising as a livelihood.
In a raised voice, he argued with a task force official, insisting that the disinfection measure being implemented would not kill the ASF virus and that the entire province would soon lose its entire swine population.
Before leaving, he warned the task force not to include a pig for slaughter he claimed to have temporarily placed in a nearby pig pen.
However, a resident told the task force that the pig being claimed by the butcher had been in its pen since August 2020 and asked for the fair, no-exception implementation of the depopulation measure.
Pursuant to existing guidelines issued by the Department of Agriculture, the one-kilometer Quarantine Zones would be reckoned from the ASF virus epicenters in the barangays from where the 35 tissue samples were detected to have the ASF viral DNA.
Thus, aside from the CatSU College of Agriculture and Fisheries in Calatagan Tibang, Virac, similar Quarantine Zones will be marked from the location of the initial ASF-stricken swine or index cases in Wagdas, Batong Paluway, Cabcab, Datag, and Bagong Sirang, all in San Andres; Viga Breeding Station at San Vicente, Viga; San Isidro Village, Valencia, Gogon, Calatagan, and Sta. Elena, all in Virac; San Miguel poblacion; and, Cabugao in Bato.
The depopulation measure is part of the measures laid out for LGUs to follow during the Dec. 18, 2020 on-line meeting of the Provincial ASF Task Force with DA Regional Technical Director for Research and Regulatory Services Edgar Madrid to prevent the spread of the disease to the other six towns.
Among these were: activation of the task force’s Provincial Quick Response Team; establishment of border control checkpoints at the infection and quarantine zones, as well as municipal boundaries, including disinfection of vehicles; inventory of farmers and swine in the Infected Zones; identification of burial sites preferably within the IZ; conduct of surveillance and monitoring in the Surveillance Zones seven kilometers from ground zero; non-selective depopulation within the 500-meter IZ within seven days from receipt of the notice from DA; regular disinfection of hog farms; information dissemination by LGUs and barangay officials; and strict implementation of DA Administrative Order No. 22 and related issuances.
An inventory of the swine population in Catanduanes conducted early this year by the towns showed the total number at 16,195, with about half or 8,212 coming from the ASF-infected towns: Virac, 2,479; San Andres, 2,349; Viga, 1,448; Bato, 1,196; and, San Miguel, 740.
Under Administrative Order No. 22, Series of 2020, issued by DA Secretary William Dar, a selective depopulation is supposed to be conducted within 48 hours in the affected farm after ASF presence is confirmed.
An initial non-selective depopulation is mandated within 500 meters radius, to be expanded to one kilometer depending on the outcome of surveillance, with infected animals to be killed first, followed by animals in contact with the infected ones, and finally the remaining swine on the premises.
The stamping-out of live pigs in backyard farms is to be completed within five (5) days of less, with disposal or burial site preferably on-site. Local authorities are also mandated to trace back any pig movement in the premises for the last 30 days and to monitor the health status of pigs in the contact premises.
The order likewise provides that animals coming from within the quarantine area which are tested and cleared shall only be allowed for slaughter in a registered abattoir located within the municipality while the trade of meat from these areas shall also be limited within the town.
On the other hand, quarantine checkpoints shall prevent the movement of animals, meat and meat products from the quarantine area to other municipalities.
Backyard farms cleared for slaughter can move out pigs but only between areas with similar status within the municipality. If picked up by a viajero, the Shipping Permit should indicate the destination and the number of heads to be picked up in backyard farms within the 1 km radius.
The Tribune tried to contact Provincial Veterinarian Dr. Jane Rubio for an update on the status of the ASF prevention campaign during the holidays but her phone was not ringing.
Since Dec. 18, the Provincial ASF Task Force chaired by Governor Joseph Cua has yet to meet to discuss the implementation of the measures intended to control or deter the spread of the virus fatal to pigs.