DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol answers issues and concerns of the stakeholders during the open forum. Listening to him are (L-R) DA Undersecretary for Operations Engr. Ariel Cayanan; PCAF-CPLFC Chairperson Dr. Rufina Salas; Bureau of Animal Industry’s (BAI) Animal Disease Control Section Head Dr. Arlene Vytiaco, and Executive Director of the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) Dr. Ernesto Gonzalez

The Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol ordered the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) to gather the poultry stakeholders for a special meeting to discuss the Avian Influenza incidence in San Luis, Pampanga and Nueve Ecija.

PCAF immediately responded and organized the dialogue of Sec. Piñol with the industry stakeholders and concerned government agencies on August 22, 2017 at the DA Conference Room in Quezon City.

The undertaking aimed to address the outbreak in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija to prevent further spread of the disease in other parts of Luzon, and to Visayas, and Mindanao.

Previously, on August 11, 2017, Sec. Piñol officially confirmed the presence of bird flu virus after conducting necessary laboratory tests. Almost two weeks after this declaration, a drop in the demand for poultry products were experienced, as public fear spread among consumers.

DA-RFO III Director Engr. Roy Abaya (left) presents an updates and situationer about the bird flu outbreak in Pampanga.

DA – Regional Field Office III (RFO III) Director Engr. Roy Abaya presented an update regarding the avian flu outbreak in Pampanga and measures undertaken by the DA to prevent the spread of the virus.

Based on his report, 158,567 birds were already culled within the 1-km quarantine area while 289,136 birds were culled outside and within the 7-km control area in Pampanga, as of August 21, 2017.

After the presentation, Sec. Piñol announced that he will lift the ban on the movement of live birds, poultry products including poultry meat, eggs and other products from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao except from the 1-km quarantine area and 7-km control area in San Luis, Pampanga and municipalities of Jaen and San Isidro, Nueva Ecija.

To dispel public fear, Sec. Piñol instructed the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) to place signboards in all market places stating that poultry products are safe to consume.

He will also invite President Rodrigo Duterte to Pampanga where they will eat “balut” and other poultry products to prove to the consumers that they are safe for consumption.

Furthermore, Sec. Piñol appealed to poultry product importers to lessen their imports for the meantime and buy local poultry products instead to support the domestic poultry industry in this time of crisis.

He added that they are exploring ways on how the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) can be used as a source of capital to help the industry recover.

A PhP51-M fund will be released as assistance to the affected farm owners. Sec. Piñol signed the memorandum authorizing the DA-RFO III to use the initial PhP31-M to pay for damages in Pampanga.

Under the Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC) Survival and Recovery (SURE) loan program, there is also an available credit fund amounting to PhP20-M.

The said program allows the provision of collateral and interest-free loans up to PhP25,000 for farm owners and PhP5,000 for laborers.

During the open forum, the members of the PCAF – Committee on Poultry, Livestock, and Feed Crops and other concerned industry stakeholders raised their issues and concerns.

These include the problem on layer and broiler manure disposal; land conversion of agricultural areas which affects farmers’/investors’ regular operation and expansion activities; and compensation for farms within the control area that also need to cull their chickens should they test positive to the virus after the 21 days incubation period. – LC