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Quarantine group relieved for failure to institute protocol vs. African Swine Fever

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, January 4th, 2019


QUEZON CITY, Philippines – Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on his social media account announced that the entire Quarantine group at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) will be relieved from their posts effective Friday (January 4).

Piñol said such order was made because of the group’s failure to comply with his earlier directive “to institute Quarantine protocols to prevent the entry of pork products from areas affected by the African Swine Fever (ASF).”


DA-BAI employees with their prepared disinfection mat before the disembarkation of passengers in Region 12 | Photo courtesy of Bureau of Animal Industry via Manny Piñol Facebook account

Secretary Piñol said he ordered “all Quarantine Stations to establish footbaths in all entry points of the country for the interception and confiscation of all pork-based products” because of the threat of ASF that was monitored by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as early as last year.

The Philippines, meanwhile, has already established a plan of action to prevent the entry of the disease into the country.

ASF is a viral disease that has been killing pigs in at least eight countries at present.

China has already reported an outbreak of the deadly disease as it has infested huge pig farms in the country.

Secretary Piñol added that he will also direct the Department of Agriculture (DA) Internal Administrative Service (IAS) “to conduct an investigation and establish whether the officers could be charged with dereliction of duty.”


DA-BAI employee showing his disinfection mat | Photo courtesy of Bureau of Animal Industry via Manny Piñol Facebook account

“The relief of the whole Quarantine Team at the NAIA should send a clear message to members of the Department of Agriculture (DA) family that we cannot take Administrative Directives for granted,” the Secretary said. – Marje Pelayo

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Sunken boat’s cook insists no other Filipino vessels in collision site

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2019

(L-R) Arlinda dela Torre and Richard Blaza with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol and the sunken boat at the site of the collision

MANILA, Philippines – Richard Blaza, the cook of the Filipino fishing boat that figured in a sea collision with a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank, maintained there were no other Philippine sea vessels in the area when the incident happened on June 9.

Blaza, together with the boat’s owner Arlinda dela Torre, met with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on Monday (June 17) to narrate their ordeals on the evening of the encounter.

Piñol confirmed what really transpired that night when Blaza was the only one wide awake and saw the approaching Chinese vessel Yuemaobinyu 42212.

Citing Blaza’s account, Piñol said the cook immediately awakened the captain of the boat to inform him of the approaching vessel.

But even before they were able to start the boat’s engine, the Chinese vessel hit and damaged their boat causing it to sink.

READ: DA-BFAR says Filipino fishing boat ‘rammed’; China says they were ‘besieged’

Blaza said the Chinese vessel, which was about 40 to 50 meters in length, circled their fishing boat, flashed its lights on them and then left.

He insisted that there were no other Filipino vessels in the area.

In fact, he estimated that the Vietnamese vessel who rescued them was about five miles away from them.

“Naisip pa namin kung mabubuhay pa (ba) kami doon? Mabuti may Vietnam doon (We were asking ourselves: Are we going to make it out alive? Good thing the Vietnamese were there),” Blaza said.

While waiting for rescue, the fishermen managed to survive by keeping themselves afloat with the help of the boat’s compressor.

Blaza’s testimony, according to Secretary Piñol, is an outright contrast to the claims of the Chinese government that about seven to eight Filipino vessels came to “besiege” their crewmen and that the Chinese vessel accidentally hit F/B GEM-VER 1 as it maneuvered to leave the area.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is still waiting for the result of the investigation on whether the ramming incident was intentional or accidental.

Amid the controversy, Piñol said there is no reason to bar Filipino fishermen from fishing in Recto Bank.

“We will continue fishing in that area. That is our traditional fishing ground and we will continue doing that,” he said.

“We will not advise our fishermen not to go to the area. In fact, we will encourage them. Marami palang Lapu-lapu doon. Ang mahal mahal ng Lapu-lapu ngayon (There is an abundance of lapu-lapu fish there and its price is high in markets nowadays),” he added.

To assist the affected fishermen, the DA will provide them new boats including 11 fiberglass boats and P25,000 cash assistance each of the fishermen’s family.

The agency will also extend assistance to the owner of the damaged fishing boat for her expenses in acquiring the million-peso worth fishing vessel.

Secretary Piñol expressed gratitude to the Vietnamese crewmen to rescued the Filipino fishermen and vowed to push for the modernization of fishing vessels in the country. (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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DA-BFAR says Filipino fishing boat ‘rammed’; China says they were ‘besieged’

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2019

(L-R) Crewmen of the sunken fishing vessel, F/B GEN-VER 1 reunited with their families; wreckage of F/B GEN-VER 1 after getting hit by a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank on June 9, 2019.

MANILA, Philippines – The Filipino fishing boat was ‘hit’ and ‘rammed’.

This was emphasized by the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) after numerous versions of the incident in Recto Bank surfaced over the weekend.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol answered questions on his social media account “to correct insinuations that the Filipino fishermen lied” about the incident.

“The captain and crew of the fishing boat stated from the very beginning that they were hit by a Chinese boat. The Chinese initially said it was not certain but later on admitted that the vessel involved in the “ramming” or collision incident was indeed a Chinese boat,” Piñol explained, referring to the question of whether it was indeed a Chinese vessel which hit F/B GEN-VER 1 of the Filipino fishermen.

Piñol also confirmed that the Filipino fishing boat indeed sank, to clear doubts after the vessel was shown sailing back to San Jose in Oriental Mindoro aided by the Philippine Navy.

“The captain and the crew said they had to jump into the water because their boat sank,” the Agriculture Secretary emphasized.

He posted a photo sent by BFAR Director Elizer Salilig which showed a sunken F/B GEN-VER 1 with its bow jutting out of the water.

“Rescuers later refloated the boat and repaired its damaged tailfin,” he added.

The captain of the Filipino boat in an interview said they were rescued by Vietnamese crewmen who were in the vicinity.

“Nagsenyasan kami. Sabi niya: ‘Vietnam, Philippines friends,'” kaya alam kong Vietnam,” Junel Insigne, the captain of the Filipino fishing boat said.

(We used sign language. He said: “Vietnam, Philippines friends,” that’s how I knew they were Vietnamese.)

On Friday, China’s Embassy in Manila admitted that it was a Chinese vessel that hit a Philippine boat at Recto Bank on Sunday (June 9).

However, China claimed that the Chinese vessel Yuemaobinyu 42212 was berthed at the vicinity when “suddenly besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats.”

“During evacuation, 42212 failed to shun a Filipino fishing boat, and its steel cable on the lighting grid of larboard bumped into the Filipino pilothouse. The Filipino fishing boat tilted and its stern foundered,” the Embassy said in the statement.

“The Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen, but was afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats,” the statement read further.

The Embassy said that the Chinese crewmen decided to sail away after confirming that the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued by other Filipino fishing boats.

“The above shows that there is no such thing as “hit-and-run”, the Chinese Embassy said.

It added that China will continue to properly handle the issue with the Philippines “in a serious and responsible manner.”

“The two sides are maintaining close communication through diplomatic channels,” it added.

Amid the issues surrounding the incident, Secretary Piñol believes it is best to conduct an investigation on the matter.

“Whether it was an accidental collision or intentional ramming is an issue that is better resolved through the conduct of a maritime investigation,” he concluded.

Piñol said they already submitted the incident report to President Rodrigo Duterte. — with reports from Rosalie Coz

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Canned pork seized from OFW positive for African Swine Fever virus

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Confiscated canned pork products that tested positive for African Swine Fever (ASF) virus | Courtesy : Secretary Manny Piñol’s Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol confirmed on Friday (June 12) that the canned pork products confiscated last March 25 at the Clark International Airport have tested positive for African Swine Fever (ASF) virus.

Piñol said that the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) reported the detection of the ASF virus from the confiscated canned pork products brought in by a returning overseas Filipino worker (OFW) from Hong Kong.

The Agriculture Chief cited a report by Dr. Rachel Azul of BAI’s Virulogy Section saying “the viral DNA was isolated in pork luncheon meat and was tested using the ASF Taqman PCR Asssay at the ADDRL,” a procedure validated by laboratories in the United Kingdom and is widely used in countries in Asia for detection of ASF virus.

Azul clarified, however, that the detection of the ASF virus in the confiscated canned pork does not change the Philippine’s status as an “African Swine Fever-free” nation.

“So far, no African swine fever infections have been reported in pigs in the country,” she said as posted by Secretary Piñol.

“The seizure is a warning for the industry and an acknowledgment of the catastrophic threat on our doorsteps. If introduced, ASF would have a significant impact on pig health and production and contribute to enormous economic losses,” she added.

In a separate post, Secretary Piñol defended the Bureau of Quarantine for imposing strict screening procedures at airports as preventive measure against the the entry of the deadly pig virus.

“Kung nakalusot po ito at naipakain sa mga alagang baboy ang tira-tira, maaring kumalat ang sakit sa ating mga babuyan at magiging sanhi ng pagkasira ng ating hog industry,” he said.

(If leftovers of these products were fed to our livestock, the virus could have spread and harm our hog industry.)

“Doon po sa mga nagsasabing nag-o-over react lang kami at nagrereklamo sa mga mahigpit na quarantine protocols, ito po ang patunay na meron talaga tayong kinakaharap na panganib,” he added.

(To those who are accusing us of over reacting and were complaining against strict quarantine protocols, this is the proof that there is really danger ahead of us.)

READ: Ban on pork, pork-based products from ASF-infected countries still in effect – DA

Piñol asked all returning Filipinos to yield to quarantine officers at the airport.

“Huwag na po tayong maging pilosopo at matigas ang ulo. Sumunod po tayo sa mga quarantine officers sa mga airport,” he appealed.

(Let us not argue and don’t be hard-headed. Let us just follow the quarantine officers at the airport.)

“Bawal na po magpasok ng mga delata at processed pork products sa bansa. Huhulihin po kayo at pagmumultahin,” he concluded.

(It is prohibited to bring canned and processed pork products into the country. You will be arrested and fined.)

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