DA told to prioritize the eradication of ASF; extend aid to hog farmers

Senator Joel Villanueva called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to ‘do everything in its power” to find a solution against the African swine flu (ASF) crisis, while at the same time providing aid to a now struggling local hog industry in danger of slaughter from calls to increase the importation of pork.

“This food crisis is a local problem that must have a local solution. In order of priority, unahin po natin ang pagsugpo sa ASF at pagtulong sa mga magbababoy. Iyan ang tanong po natin sa DA ngayon. Ano po ang farm-level solutions nyo?” Villanueva said in today’s hearing on the alleged “tongpats scheme” within the DA on imported pork.

“At hindi po ako naniniwala na ang solusyon sa krisis na ito ay mag-import ng karne. An imported virus is killing local pigs. We should not let too much imported pork finish off what is left of our hog industry. Our salvation cannot be found in foreign farms,” the chair of the Senate committee on labor added.

The ASF outbreak has reduced the supply of local pork in the market, and Villanueva wants to know what the DA is doing to counter this scarcity that has been driving the prices of meat to unaffordable levels.

“Maliban sa pag-alis ng tariff walls, ano po ang farmgate interventions ng DA? The national swine inventory is down by 3 million heads. Piggeries have been emptied of one-fourth of their stocks. This 25-percent plunge in the livestock population translates to a 100-percent bankruptcy rate in many pig farms. Biyak na po pati kanilang piggy banks,” Villanueva lamented.

“Dito lang po sa ating lalawigan ng Bulacan, bumagsak po ng one-third ang production ng baboy noong nakalipas na taon, at one-fourth naman ang pagsadsad sa buong Central Luzon. P8,000 po ang nawalang kita sa kada ulo ng baboy. Di hamak mas malaki po ito sa P1,000 na ayuda ng gobyerno kada ulo sa isang bahay,” he further explained.

Villanueva called it a tragedy to learn that the ASF has ravaged much of the country’s hog farms, and government intervention is needed to reverse the downward spiral.

“Kung gagawan nga raw po ng pelikula ang trahedyang ito, malamang ang titulo ay ‘Silence of the Pigs.’ Pero ang mas malaking trahedya po ay ang pag-iingay ng ilang mga negosyante na ang tanging solusyon ay ang pag-aangkat ng karne ng baboy,” he warned.

“Those who are about to make a big killing on imports are the ones doing the loud squealing. If they will dominate and dictate the policy discussion, then pig farmers, sellers and consumers are simultaneously fighting three enemies known by their popular initials: ASF, COVID and, it appears, DA,” Villanueva expressed.

“Kung ang isa pong solusyon na inirerekomenda ng DA sa mga magbababoy ay mag-shift sa aquaculture, we are in trouble. It is like asking a black bug-hit rice farmer to go buy a boat and start fishing.”