Checkpoints set up to seize contaminated meat from Bulacan

By Nancy C. Carvajal, TJ Burgonio
Last updated 08:33pm (Mla time) 07/27/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Satellite meat inspection points have been set up in two areas in Valenzuela City to ensure that no infected meat from cholera-infested hog farms in Bulacan will enter Metro Manila.


Dr. Basil Sison, head of the City Veterinary Office , said the inspection sites were put up after a request of the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) coursed through City Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian.


Valenzuela City is the gateway to Metro Manila for foodstuff from Central and Northern Luzon.


Sison said the request stemmed from a warning from the Department of Agriculture of an outbreak of hog cholera in some areas in Bulacan province and the proliferation of “double-dead meat” in Metro Manila markets.


The NMIS raised on Friday a hog cholera “red alert” in Metro Manila and five regions of Luzon after the disease spread to backyard pig farms in Bulacan and Pampanga.


Bulacan, a hog-growing center, is a major pork supplier of Metro Manila.


Sison said preventing the entry of infected meat would help prevent the spread of hog cholera in the city.


The checkpoints will be manned by people from the Valenzuela veterinary office in coordination with the Philippine National Police.


Sison said even meat products from accredited hog farms and slaughter houses would be closely monitored.


He said shipments, even when they had the required documentation like slaughter house stamps and meat certification, would be inspected.


“The condition of the meat at the time of the inspection would be given more weight,” Sison said.


He added that contaminated meat would be confiscated and the people transporting it would be investigated.


Those found transporting contaminated meat will be charged with violation of Republic Act No. 9296 or the Meat Inspection Code, the Consumers Act, and a city ordinance.


Hog cholera is highly infectious and spreads rapidly. But the outbreak of the disease in some areas in Bulacan would not affect the supply and prices of pork in Metro Manila, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) officials said Friday.


Davinio Catbagan, BAI officer in charge, said the outbreak was confined to only a “few farms.”


So far, less than five percent of 2,250 affected hogs died from the disease that broke out last week in backyard farms in at least 32 villages in Bulacan, Catbagan said.


Catbagan said the BAI has mounted a campaign to prevent the spread of the disease.


“We are assuring consumers that prices of pork are expected to remain stable despite the outbreak because the disease is only confined to a few farms, and hence, will have no effect on the supply of hogs to Metro Manila.”


He assured growers that cholera could be prevented by vaccination.


Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap ordered the BAI to look into the status of the hog vaccination program in Bulacan. He directed the provincial veterinarian to submit a report on the possible causes of the outbreak.


Yap also ordered that transport of breeders and hogs for slaughter should be covered by shipping permits and monitored at veterinary quarantine checkpoints.


“The selling and transport of sick and affected animals is strictly prohibited,” Yap stressed in his directive.


Yap ordered DA regional executive directors to coordinate closely with provincial, city and municipal veterinarians in a massive information campaign on measures to prevent the spread of the disease.


Catbagan said the outbreak would not affect the government’s plan to apply for a global declaration of the Philippines as a foot and mouth disease-free country next year with the Animal Health Organization (AHO).


The AHO is expected to vote on the application when it holds its general assembly in May 2008.

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