Her pronouncement came a day after the Department of Agriculture in Central Visayas (DA 7) confirmed to SunStar Cebu that ASF had now been detected in parts of Cebu outside Carcar.
Garcia issued a stern warning Thursday, March 16, 2023, to Dr. Daniel Ventura, ASF coordinator of the DA 7, and other national agencies that the provincial government will exercise its authority stipulated in Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 in responding to the outbreak of the viral disease affecting the swine population.
Those who proceed with the implementation of their own protocols in handling the ASF threat without the governor’s approval may face lawsuits filed by the Provincial Legal Office.
This was her response to the statement of Ventura to SunStar Cebu Wednesday, that culling is important to be adhered to as this will minimize the spread of the virus to other pig farms.
Ventura said the culling of pigs adheres to the national policy of responding to ASF contamination, adding that it is science-based.
But Garcia emphasized the domino effect of culling or the depopulation of all hogs within 500 meters from the infected site, saying it will lead to the increase in prices of pork meat and byproducts as supplies dwindle.
Thus, culling will impose a significant economic impact on Carcar City, the governor told reporters in a press conference on Thursday, March 16.
“You will just say that it is the national policy, but the buck stops with me. I will be answerable, so it cannot be that I should answer for your decision. I will be the one to decide, not you, not the policies you made, by the people who have not seen the real situation here. Who did not go there, did not listen, did not see the tears,” Garcia said in Cebuano.
The official stressed that under the provisions of Section 2 (c), Sec. 16, 25, 27, and Sec. 465 of the Local Government Code, all national government agencies have to consult first, seek the concerned local government unit’s participation, and obtain its approval in the planning and execution of certain policies and programs within its jurisdiction.
“Give us due respect because you are operating within the territorial jurisdiction of the Province of Cebu. If you do not want to recognize the territorial jurisdiction of the Province of Cebu, then you start culling pigs outside of the municipal waters of the province. That’s 15 kilometers from the coastline. Adto you operate there. Pangita’g baboy nga imong patyon (Look for a pig that you can kill) but not within, unless we give you prior approval,” Garcia said.
SunStar Cebu sought Ventura’s comment; however, the official said he would still have to discuss the matter with the higher-ups.
Forced to kill
Carcar City Administrator Jose Marie Poblete revealed during the Open Line News Forum, a MyTV Cebu program, last Tuesday that it was a team from the DA Central Office that insisted to Carcar City Mayor Mario Patricio Barcenas to begin the culling of live hogs in the affected areas, as soon as possible.
“The reason we started the culling is that even until now, the staff of the DA National are there, really insisting that you have to start already because their concern is the prevention. The disease must not spread to other places, and the only remedy they see now is to kill because we still don’t have a vaccine. We don’t have a cure yet,” Poblete said.
“They are insisting and we could not do anything about it. It’s a good thing that the governor has now issued an order on this,” he added.
Last week, 141 hogs from Barangay Can-asujan were killed and buried.
After pigs in a Carcar slaughterhouse tested positive for ASF last March 1, the infection was traced back to Can-asujan and two other barangays of the city.
Around 500 pigs from Barangay Guadalupe were scheduled to be culled next. But the governor ordered a stop to the further culling of hogs in Carcar last Monday.
Instead of depopulation, Garcia said the provincial government will intensify the province-wide surveillance down to the purok level.
She will meet again all the mayors and officials down to the barangay and purok levels under the province, mandating them to continue the inventory of all backyard hog raisers in their respective jurisdictions.
They will also monitor these hog farms and look out for live pigs manifesting symptoms of an illness, which will then be isolated and from which samples will be taken for testing.
Meanwhile, Provincial Veterinary Office head Dr. Mary Rose Vincoy said that this week, the Capitol will continue to focus on formulating its own testing method to check the results of the diagnostic tests that will be done on pigs in the entire province of Cebu, so they can determine the exact disease afflicting the pigs.
Garcia said the Province is partnering with Prime Care Cebu, a private laboratory, to test and analyze the hog samples for illness, to determine whether the swine are positive for ASF or other diseases.
The symptomatic hogs will be subjected to a rapid antigen test within seven days of symptom detection, and then a rapid antibody test seven days after the first test.
Both tests will determine if the livestock are positive for ASF or just the classical swine fever (hog cholera), which is less fatal to pigs.
Garcia has cast doubt on the ASF findings in Carcar, saying that ASF and hog cholera symptoms are similar.
Garcia will issue an order to police not to allow pigs to be killed without the provincial government’s approval.
On Wednesday, the local government unit of Consolacion in northern Cebu tightened its security measures to prevent the entry of ASF to the municipality.
Mayor Teresa Alegado instructed the leaders of the municipality’s 21 barangays to impose border controls to ensure that pigs being transported in trucks passing through their area have documents to prove that they are free of the virus.
She also instructed them to urge their residents to inform the barangay if their pigs died. (ANV, TPT)