Why was the Department of Agriculture lacking in its help for communities affected by African Swine Fever (ASF) in Mlang town in Cotabato?
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson raised this question Monday after he and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III learned of the situation firsthand earlier this month.
“Ang nag-abono, local government unit, in the amount of P10.7 million. Magkano ang pondo ng DA sa ASF? Narito rin ang hog raisers, they will benefit to find out from DA anong nangyari sa funding sa ASF (The LGU had to shell out money to assist the affected hog raisers, amounting to P10.7 million How much in funds does the DA have to address ASF? Hog raisers will benefit if they find out what happened),” Lacson said at the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on continued smuggling and other issues affecting agricultural products.
Citing a news report in January 2022, Lacson said the DA declared Mlang town in Cotabato a “red zone” after the ASF spread to 10 of its 37 villages. The municipal agriculture office reportedly depopulated at least 2,044 hogs from 430 hog raisers, valued at some P7 million, as of Dec. 23 last year.
Acting agriculturist Arlene Encarnacion attributed the spread of the swine disease to the poor observance of biosecurity protocols by piggery owners as well as the smuggling out of meat from ASF-infected hogs by backyard raisers and traders.
Lacson said he and Sotto learned of the plight of the LGU and local hog raisers in Mlang firsthand when they visited it last March 24. Teresa Engada, a member of Magalion Farmers Association, said the lack of ASF indemnification from the DA prompted the local government of Mlang to provide additional cash to at least cover their mounting losses from the ASF crisis.
Engada said they received P5,000 from the DA for each sow culled, while an additional P2,000 was provided by the local government unit of Mlang.
“Dahil helpless sila, ang nag-rescue LGU. Ang laki ng tama nila yet DA has no idea. Homework mo nga yan (Since the hog raisers were helpless, the LGUs helped. Yet it seems the DA has no idea. Do your homework),” Lacson told DA officials at the hearing.