The nearly 500 sentinel pigs distributed in the province last June 23, 2022 by the Department of Agriculture regional office will have to test negative for Africal Swine Fever (ASF) before Catanduanes can be declared free of the hog epidemic.
This was disclosed by Provincial Veterinarian Dr. Jane Rubio recently, who told the Tribune that a team from the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RADDL), with the assistance of provincial veterinary personnel, will take samples from the sentinel pigs on Aug. 2, the 40th day after the pigs arrived on the island.
If the samples test positive for ASF, another round of depopulation of pigs in the so-called quarantine zones will have to be conducted, Dr. Rubio said.
She earlier stated that the delay in the declaration of the province as ASF-free was due to the delay in the delivery of the sentinel pigs, which was reportedly sourced from Negros island in the Visayas and quarantined in Sorsogon before they were brought to the island.
The 495 pigs were distributed among 10 towns as follows: Baras, 58; Bato, 110; Caramoran, 14; Gigmoto, 27; Pandan, 26; Panganiban, 13; San Andres, 105; San Miguel, 82; Viga, 9; and Virac, 51.
The hogs were covered by an animal health certificate issued by the PVO of Sorsogon as well as a quarantine permit from the DA regional office.
Dr. Rubio admitted that some of the sentinel pigs died but the cause of death was attributed to stress and not due to suspected ASF infection.
Regarding reports that seven to nine sentinel pigs have died, Bato Mayor Juan Rodulfo said that a test of one of the dead pigs in the town showed that it was not caused by ASF.
“We have already instructed the municipal agriculturist, Delfin Samar, to investigate the reason for the deaths of the pigs,” he stated, adding that several deaths have also been reported in Virac and San Miguel.
Records of the Provincial Veterinary Office showed that aside from the 500 sentinel pigs, 555 hogs have also arrived in the island via the ferries from March until June.
This does not include those smuggled in via motorized bancas from the Bicol mainland and brought to shores of San Andres coastal villages, especially in Bislig.
Mayor Rodulfo confirmed that in Cabugao, someone brought in a truck loaded with scores of hogs reportedly from Pampanga and sold to buyers from other towns.
The report, the chief executive, alarmed hog raisers in Virac that they alerted him about the shipment.
Rodulfo said he himself wondered why the shipper would buy pigs in Pampanga and use a truck to bring it to the island when the buying price is much higher in Metro Manila where there is a shortage of pork.
He said he has already instructed barangay officials to carefully check the authenticity of the documents presented by anyone who brings pigs from outside the province.