Cebu governor defies ASF protocol, orders suspension of culling

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Cebu (CNN Philippines, March 13) — Culling of pigs in Carcar City in the Metro Cebu area was halted as the provincial governor doubts about an African Swine Fever (ASF) infection in the area.

Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia said the province will come up with its own procedures in determining ASF infection and how it is managed, even if the Department of Agriculture (DA) has existing policies.

She said there was no massive death of pigs in Cebu, adding that the infection in Carcar may have just been "common swine fever or common swine cholera" which are not as deadly to hogs.

"I said. ‘Okay immediately stop the culling,’" Garcia said in an interview on Monday after her meeting with mayors and other concerned agencies such as the DA and the National Meat Inspection Agency.

"We will now do our own policy as what we did during COVID-19 where we found that some of the policies that were being imposed upon the hapless population which included the poor who could not speak out and which made no sense to me at all, who saw the situation on the ground," Garcia said.

A total of 141 pigs were culled in Carcar since the supposed detection last week of the ASF and upon the direction of the DA.

Garcia said tests conducted in the city, which yielded positive results for ASF, were done inside a slaughterhouse and not in the farm. She said there is no way now of knowing whether the animal manifested symptoms.

The governor said cholera and ASF have similar symptoms.

For the next seven days, Garcia said there is no culling of pigs in the province.

She also ordered the Provincial Veterinary Office to look for other methods to test for ASF and that tests should be done only to pigs that show symptoms in the farms. There should also be a spleen test, she added.

Disinfection of backyard hog farms shall also be imposed while transport of pigs out of Carcar continues to be restricted.

Garcia said she will defy the DA policy to protect affected Cebuanos who are already seeking help when healthy pigs are culled.

"I will always stand for Cebu and I will always stand up for the Cebuanos. I am not accountable to people from Manila, I am accountable to the Cebuanos that voted me into this office," Garcia said.

"Now I know that the people being burdened are not the rich hog farms, but those who hope to afford to send their children to school or have a better life because of their backyard farming and even those who make livelihood out of their lechon," she added.