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Calamity fund eyed to keep ASF in check

The Department of Agriculture has P1 billion in Quick Response Funds under this year’s Calamity Fund that it can tap to stop the spread of the African Swine Fever, said Senator Juan Edgardo Angara.

READ: Pampanga sets ban to stay ASF-free

Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said government should now “break the glass of this emergency fund” and use it to implement the DA’s containment protocol against a disease which threatens a key food source that also adds P280 billion to the economy annually.

“This ASF is by all accounts a calamity. It may not have the dramatic footage that typhoons create, but in terms of damage to livelihood, and the households affected, it is just as damaging,” Angara said.

Angara said stopping the spread of ASF must be done now before it engulfs the entire industry and endanger the jobs of tens of thousands of people.

“If agriculture disasters like pests, droughts and ASF are rated, the latter has the potential of becoming a high-category calamity,” Angara said.

Angara said funding for anti-ASF measures can be taken from the P20-billion National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, more commonly known as the Calamity Fund, in the General Appropriations Act for 2020.

Under this fund, the DA is assigned P1 billion in QRF, “which by their nature, should have been forward-deployed to these agencies.”

It was only on Sept. 10 that the Department of Budget and Management released P82.5 million to the DA to carry out measures to “arrest and abate” the spread of ASF.

Angara noted that 35 percent of the amount or P32 million will be spent to boost security screening measures at the international airports.

Another P28 million will go to laboratory testing of meat and meat products.

“It is good that we’re strengthening our quarantine curtains, but what we lack are funds to fight ASF on the ground, especially now that the local governments are fully mobilized,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“But if the ASF epidemic will worsen, and will down many farms, and some financial aid for those stricken is needed, then this can be included in the 2020 budget,” Angara said.

Meanwhile, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte began the distribution of cash assistance to hog raisers affected by the AFS scare.

Owners of 146 pigs culled in Barangay Bagong Silangan since Sunday’s operations were the first recipients of the financial help from the city government.

Belmonte said the city would be providing P3,000 and P1,500 for every culled pig and piglet, respectively.

“Scholarships and livelihood will also be provided to affected families of illegal hog raisers to help them find new ways to earn a living,” she said.

“We cannot just leave them that way, especially in times when they need the help of the city government. We are just here always ready to help them recover from the problem,” she added.

As a preemptive measure, Belmonte ordered the immediate culling of pigs from Area 5 in Sitio Veterans and Area 2 in Sitio Oriole in Barangay Bagong Silangan after blood samples were confirmed by the Bureau of Animal Industry as positive for the ASF.

“We went above and beyond the Department of Agriculture’s protocol to ensure that the virus won’t spread to nearby areas so I ordered the immediate culling of the pigs,” she said.

The chief veterinarian, Dr. Anamarie Cabel, said the 1-7-10 protocol requires the culling of infected animals.

The city mayor urged barangay officials within the one-kilometer radius to cooperate by identifying informal backyard hog raisers and assist the veterinary office in getting blood samples to be submitted to BAI for testing.

Cabel, for her part, called on hog raisers to report any case of sick pigs through 988-4242 local 8036.

She also advised consumers to look for meat inspection certificate from retailers to ensure the meat they are buying is safe.

READ: ASF outbreak contained in four areas, Agri chief says

Topics: Department of Agriculture , Quick Response Funds , Calamity Funds , Joy Belmonte
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