DILG: Lift ban on processed pork

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 16) — The Department of Interior and Local Government has ordered local officials to lift the ban they had imposed on processed meat products amid the outbreak of African Swine Fever in some areas in Luzon.

“Since the government has been acting aggressively and effectively to address the ASF outbreak, we are urging all LGUs to lift the ban on processed meat products containing pork for as long as the products meet certain conditions imposed by the Department of Agriculture,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said in a statement on Wednesday.

The DILG emphasized that processed pork should be sold in the entire country as long as these products have proper certifications from the government. The Department of Agriculture and the National Meat Inspection Service check if the meat products are cooked at high temperatures, where the swine fever virus cannot thrive.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier asked mayors and governors not to bar the entry of pork items, as manufacturers of processed meat are already slashing production. Año issued a memorandum circular to protect consumers and the meat industry "from any disruption in the flow of trade and commerce across the country," the DILG said.

The Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. earlier said some of its members are reluctant to produce Christmas hams — a noche buena staple — as they might not be able to transport these products to the provinces. They now thank the DILG for directing the exclusion of pork products from the provincial bans.

"We rely on the advice of experts on animal health and diseases from our own Bureau of Animal Industry and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that processed meats when heated at a minimum temperature of 70 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, will no longer have the ASF virus. Our products are treated at temperatures higher than the recommended threshold," the meat processors assured in a statement.

Benguet, Cebu, Bohol, Negros Occidental, and Pampanga are among the provinces which have banned the entry of live hogs and even pork products shipped from areas affected by the swine fever. Meanwhile, a conditional ban is in place in other local government units.

Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia said her province will defy the memorandum circular, adding that she cannot abandon her duty to see to it that the welfare of the Cebuanos are taken cared of.

Garcia is currently drafting a position paper against the circular.

Another local official also stands by their ban. Maramag town Mayor Jose Joel Doromal said they will not take risks that could compromise the safety of their local meat.

Cases of African Swine Fever have been confirmed in some areas in Quezon City, Rizal, and Bulacan.

Since the outbreak of swine fever in July, around 30,000 pigs have been culled. This accounts for less than one percent of the country's total swine population of 12.8 million, the DILG said.

LOOK: A timeline of African Swine Fever in the PH

The current import ban on pork and pork products covers 16 countries hit by swine fever; namely Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Moldova, South Africa, Zambia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Belgium, Latvia, Poland, Romania, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Mongolia, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

African Swine Fever only affects pigs, but humans can carry the virus and spread the disease. The virus quickly spreads in an affected hog, which could lead to death after three to five days.

CNN Philippines' Carolyn Bonquin contrbuted to this report.