Mindanao farmers’ appeal for further ban on Luzon poultry products ignored

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Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol

DAVAO CITY — The lifting of the ban on the entry of poultry products from Luzon will go ahead despite a petition by poultry industry associations in Mindanao for Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol to continue the ban until November.

“There is still no declaration that we are free from the avian flu that affected several farms in Pampanga and Tarlac and until then the government should ensure that Mindanao remains free from the virus by blocking the entry of poultry products from Luzon,” Lalaine A. dela Victoria, president of the Davao Poultry and Egg Producers Association, told BusinessWorld in an interview.

After Mr. Piñol has lifted the ban on Luzon products, the Mindanao poultry farmers decided to bring their appeal to the local government unit (LGU) level. The signatories to the appeal are the Southern Philippines Egg Producers Association, Northern Mindanao Egg Group, Davao Poultry and Egg Producers, Inc., and Davao United Game Fowl Breeders Association.

Mindanao’s growers are asking LGUs to ban “any poultry, eggs and any related products from Luzon until the conditions for lifting the ban have been complied (with).” It claims “there is no compelling reason for any undue haste in lifting the temporary ban” since Mindanao is self-sufficient when it comes to poultry products.

“We sent a petition to Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio and we were informed by City Administrator Zuleika T. Lopez that the mayor wants to consult expert advice before she decides on the matter,” Ms. Dela Victoria said. The farmers are also talking with other LGUs in Region XII on the possible ban of poultry products from Luzon, she added.

Department of Agriculture-Davao Region Director Ricardo M. Oñate said based on PSA data as of July, the biggest concentration of poultry in Mindanao is in Northern Mindanao with 21 million layers, broilers and native chicken. The numbers in the other regions are 12.4 million for the Davao Region, 9 million for Soccsksargen, 7.68 million for Zamboanga Peninsula, 2 million for the Caraga Region and 1.6 million for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Mr. Oñate said among the plan of action being implemented in the island to ensure it remains free from the Avian flu are: monitoring of domestic fowls, issuance of certificate of inspection of poultry meat and products, checkpoint apprehensions, biosecurity, issuance of shipping permit and veterinary health certificate, vaccination of poultry workers and handlers, implementation of Wildlife Law, coastal monitoring of fowl smuggling, and implementation of prescribed biosecurity measures.

Dr. Arlene Vytiaco, Head of the Animal Disease Control Section of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) said the authorities cannot yet declare the country free from avian flu since cleaning and disinfection activities are still ongoing.

“The cleaning and disinfection is still going on and it is only after a 21-day period after the cleaning that the poultry farms can restock sentinel birds,” Ms. Vytiaco said in an interview during the Mindanao-wide Avian Influenza Conference held in the city last week. Commercial farms can only restock up to 100 sentinel birds while backyard farms can restock up to 30 birds, after the waiting period for the disinfection is completed.

Ms. Vytiaco said the agency will collect samples during a 35-day period and monitor the birds every day. If there are clinical signs of bird flu, another culll is required. But if the stocks show negative results then the birds will be harvested, followed by another two-week cleaning and disinfection stage.

“Only then if we get clear results then we can declare we are free from avian flu,” she said.

The industry raised its concerns about poultry from Luzon to the OIC director of BAI and Assistant Secretary Enrico P. Garzo during the conference. It said it will also raise the same concerns with Mr. Piñol.

“We follow an international protocol when it comes to the avian flu and given the circumstances we have no reason to lift the ban on poultry products from Luzon to Mindanao, said Ma. Teresa R. Bacayo, Chief of the Veterinary Quarantine Services (VQS)  at the Davao International Airport. She said the protocol is science-based and there is no choice but to limit the ban only on a certain radius from the poultry farms in Pampanga and Tarlac. — Carmencita A. Carillo