DA sees faster detection with Filipino-made ASF test kits

Marje Pelayo   •   January 25, 2021   •   475

A city veterinarian (R) takes a blood sample from a pig in a backyard piggery to test for African Swine Fever (ASF) in Quezon City, east of Manila, Philippines, 17 September 2019. EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is initially allotting P80 million for the development and mass production of Filipino-made test kits that can detect the dreaded African Swine Fever (ASF) faster and cheaper.

The move is part of the current nationwide biosecurity and surveillance program called “BABay ASF” (Bantay ASF sa Barangay) initiated by the Department.

“We are allocating an initial P80 million through the DA-National Livestock Program (NLP) and Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to mass-produce and distribute to local government units (LGUs) 

The test kit, called “ASFV Nanogold Biosensor” is developed by Dr. Clarissa Yvonne Domingo of the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) in partnership with the DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).

Secretary William Dar said part of the P80-M budget for the “BABay ASF” program will be provided by the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) to augment the mass production of test kits in partnership with other interested private firms and state universities and colleges (SUCs).

The CLSU-BAI team will soon acquire robotic equipment to efficiently mass-produce the test kit.

“With this development, the DA-BAI personnel and LGU veterinarians can now administer the kit for biosecurity measures, profiling of farms for repopulation, and surveillance and monitoring activities, at a much faster rate right at the so-called ‘ground-zero’ and more economical,” the DA chief said.

“We can even have these test kits on standby at the port of entries for a quick sampling of the meat products entering the country,” he added.

The rapid test kits are easy to use and can differentiate ASF virus from hog cholera and other swine-related viruses through nucleic acid-based tests. 

It was tested in 32 commercial and nine backyard farms in Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, and Nueva Ecija.

Preliminary results showed high accuracy and detection rate using the test kits.

Results of BAI laboratory tests for priority areas can be obtained within the day, but analysis usually takes two working days.

The ASF test kit, which comes with all the consumables, costs P3,500, good for 10 samples or P350 per sample.

Courtesy of Department of Agriculture

Consumer group calls for transparency on alleged manipulation of pork prices

Marje Pelayo   •   February 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — A consumer group is asking the government to release the result of its investigation on the alleged manipulation of pork prices and supply in the country. 

Laban Konsyumer wants to put an end to the allegation of price and supply manipulation of pork in the country.

Laban Konsyumer president, Atty. Vic Dimagiba, said that if the result of the investigation proves that the price of pork is reasonable, consumer confidence will be regained.

Should there be no manipulation, the names of the businessmen would be cleared.

“Kailangan ang mga tao dapat managot kung may mananagot, whether private individuals or public officials,” Dimagiba said.

“Iyong nagkulang sa paggawa niya ng trabaho ay ilabas na at magsampa ng kaso kung meron naman. kung wala naman isara na nila yung imbestigasyon dahil mabalik din naman yung tiwala ng mga negosyante na hindi sila pinagsisishan ng pamahalaan,” he added.

The group also stands on the side of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in the implementation of the price ceiling.

The DA said that the intervention is effective because it already decreased the prices of pork by P100 per kilogram.

“Sa monitoring namin meron pang nagtitinda P350 to P360 pero wala na yung P400 to P450. In effect the price ceiling is successful kasi marami pa rin naman bumebenta ng P270 to P300 na sumusunod,” explained DA Asec. Arnel de Mesa.

On the other hand, Manny Pereja, the market master in Las Piñas Market has filed a petition before the Supreme Court to stop the price ceiling.

“Iyan ang pinaka last resort na nakikita ko na kwestyunin ang Constitutionality ng batas na iyan dahil hindi naman nagre-reflect talaga sa tunay na estado ng ating bilihan talaga o nung hog industry,” Pereja said.

DA officials, however, assure that there will be enough supply in the coming days.

“Ginarantiya na meron na tayong enough supply tomorrow, 100% sa requirement nila,” National Coordinator of DA-Bantay Presyo Jerry Pelayo said. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Hontiveros urges DA to focus on ramping up efforts vs ASF instead of price caps

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—Senator Risa Hontiveros has urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to focus its efforts on preventing the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) instead of imposing price ceilings.

“The government should instead channel its efforts to bring credibility to testing, reporting, and responding to local outbreaks, among others. Hindi na nakakatulong ang ipinataw nilang price control (imposing price control is not helping), so let’s look deeper than the surface,” the senator said.

Hontiveros noted that the DA is already boosting local hog supply by distributing mother pigs and feeds to ASF-cleared areas, however, hog raisers still fear subsequent waves of infection.

Instead of repopulation plans, Hontiveros said the DA should also teach hog raisers preventive measures to protect livestock from ASF. She added that the price cap is making it almost impossible for vendors to recover from the “twindemic” of COVID-19 and ASF.

“Nakararanas tayo ng ‘Twindemic’ —pandemya ng COVID-19 at epidemya ng ASF. Kambal din ang dagok sa ating magbababoy na nalubog pa dahil sa itinakdang price ceiling (We are experiencing a ‘Twindemic’—COVID-19 pandemic and the ASF epidemic. Our hog raisers are also experiencing twin challenges due to the price ceiling),” the senator said.

Hontiveros also proposed to revoke the imposed price ceiling to help affected producers and retailers recover from their losses.

“Dumadaing na ang ating producers at retailers. Ilang eksperto na ang tumutol sa pagpapatupad ng price ceiling. Bawiin na sana ito para makabawi naman sa lugi ang ating mga kababayan (Our producers and retailers are complaining. Several experts have already expressed opposition to implementation of a price ceiling. It should be revoked for the sake of our fellowmen),” she added. AAC 

DA to vendors: Sale, display of frozen meat products sans proper refrigeration facilities not allowed

Marje Pelayo   •   February 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) has reminded vendors that it is prohibited to display or sell frozen products in public markets without properly- equipped refrigeration facilities.

This is pursuant to DA Administrative Order No. 6 Series of 2012 which emphasizes the rules and regulations on hygienic handling of chilled, frozen, and thawed meat in commercial establishments.

The DA explained that improper storage and thawing of frozen meat products, particularly in open public markets, presents a significant risk in the safety of meat products for sale.

The DA explained on the matter after the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) alleged Secretary William Dar as saying frozen is better than freshly butchered pork.

“Secretary William Dar did not say that frozen pork is better than fresh slaughtered pork,” the DA emphasized.

The order states that: “All persons or corporations, found guilty of directly or indirectly violating any provisions of this Order shall be subject to sanctions prescribed in Republic Act 9296, otherwise known as the “Meat Inspection Code of the Philippines” without prejudice to prosecution for violation of the Consumer Act of the Philippines and other applicable laws.”

Amid the current issue on pork and poultry supply, the DA through the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) continuously strive to improve the safe selling of meat, both frozen and fresh, in both public and private markets.

The DA, therefore, warns the general public not to buy frozen meat products if these are not stored in chillers or freezers.

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