Cebu governor orders lifting of border controls, no culling as ASF spreads in province

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Cebu City (CNN Philippines, March 22) — Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia issued an executive order that listed protocols in the handling of African Swine Fever (ASF) and other hog diseases, effectively setting aside the policies set by the Department of Agriculture.

Cebu City and the towns of Liloan, Tuburan, Sibonga and Bogo City have confirmed ASF cases.

Despite this, Executive Order 10 stated that all border controls and ASF zoning regulations are lifted, but some guidelines need to be observed.

The agriculture department and Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) have tagged color-coded zones to identify areas that have infections, under surveillance, and areas with no cases.

"We will give you (BAI and DA) free crayola, because you will not be able to do that color-coding scheme here in the island of Cebu," a defiant Garcia said.

In lifting the border controls, the order stated there should be registration forms and health certificates for backyard farm owners. For those tending to live pigs from commercial farms, the owners need to obtain health certificates from veterinarians.

It also stated that local government chiefs of the province, in coordination with the Department of Health and DA, agreed that culling of ASF-positive hogs cannot continue. Garcia directed the police provincial office to stop moves to cull pigs within a supposed 500-meter radius infestation.

Garcia also prohibited the BAI from conducting what she described as "indiscriminate" testing of hogs throughout the province.

She said she doubts the credibility of the process in the tests conducted by the BAI. The provincial government will conduct its own tests on hogs that display symptoms and further confirmatory evaluations, she added.

The order also stated all infected hogs will be "humanely euthanized" by a veterinarian and buried with their supervision.

No person with direct contact with pigs showing signs of infection shall be allowed to go near healthy pigs within seven days.

The governor also constituted an ASF task force per barangay. It is tasked to monitor biosecurity measures and profiling all backyard hog in order to maintain proper disinfection and reporting of infected pigs.

The task force, headed by the barangay chairman, needs to report regularly to the town or city governments which will relay information to the provincial veterinary office.

DA Central Visayas regional director Angel Enriquez showed her full support to all the provincial policies.

"To be very honest, what Cebu province is doing right now would be an eye opener to all the provinces and even to the Bureau of Animal Industry," said Enriquez. "This is now the ample time to re-evaluate the protocols that have been there."

The EO will be adopted soon into a local ordinance by the provincial board.

Cebu-based correspondent Dale Israel contributed to this report.