An agriculture business group said the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country is due to the “unlimited” and “untested” importation of pork into the Philippines.

In a statement, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) executive director Jayson Cainglet said the government should provide aid for local hog raisers and farmers, as there is no indemnification being given.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte meanwhile called on the Bureau of Animal Industry to mull over the implementation of a nationwide immunization drive to contain ASF.

“It will not matter if you impose movement protocols and biosecurity measures in local farms and transport of live hogs if we continue to have an unlimited entry of untested imported pork at the port of first entry,” Cainglet, quoted by GMA News, said.

“Local producers, especially backyard hog raisers, are facing severe difficulties when it comes to ASF protocols; but our ports are open to imported pork where no ASF tests are being conducted,” he added.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

The BAI earlier warned of a possible pork shortage due to the spread of ASF, with the estimated losses in Luzon estimated at P100 billion, GMA News reported.

“Since late last year, private and local government units [in the case of Cebu] were the ones compensating backyard farmers hit by ASF. Why is is it that the enthusiasm and zest to support and protect pork importers is not seen for local raisers?” Cainglet said.

The DA said all regions in the country were affected by ASF, save for Metro Manila which had no hog raisers in the region.

Villafuerte said an immunization drive to prevent the reported surge in ASF outbreak from getting worse “has now become doable.”

This follows Vietnam’s discovery last year and subsequent use of the world’s first vaccine to beat this deadly disease.

The lawmaker also noted the ongoing field trials local agribusiness companies “have already been doing here in our country to check the efficacy of this new drug in the Philippine setting.”

ASF is a viral disease infecting pigs with a fatality rate of up to a hundred percent, and that had decimated swine industries worldwide since its resurgence, first in China, in 2018.

This disease is responsible for a 50 percent-drop in our local swine population after ASF resurfaced in the Philippines in 2019 and spread across over 50 provinces by 2022, devastating commercial pig farms and backyard raisers and causing an annual revenue loss of P100 billion for allied industries.

Villafuerte suggested that once this new veterinary drug is proven at the end of local field trials to be as effective as an anti-ASF drug in the Philippines as it has been in Vietnam since its discovery last year, the bureau should use it.

“The BAI should weigh the feasibility of implementing a nationwide anti-ASF drive to help especially the backyard raisers to save their animals—and stave off another undue spike in pork prices that could further drive up the already elevated inflation,” he said.

DA Assistant Secretary and spokesman Rex Estoperez was quoted by the media as confirming in a recent news briefing the earlier warning by the National Livestock Program (NLP) of a possible shortage of over 46,000 metric tons (MT) of pork in June, as against the projected demand of 145,849 MT.

Villafuerte said that to the government’s credit, the DA and BAI have carried out initiatives such as hog repopulation and the Bantay ASF sa Barangay (BaBay ASF).

He added that he had been informed that many industry players continue to hesitate to reinvest 100 percent in their businesses because of the continued outbreak threats.