We were informed last Sunday that the Council of Agriculture would be imposing strict quarantine measures on incoming passengers from the Philippines to Taiwan. This was on account of reports reaching them that some piggeries in Luzon were experiencing a high hog mortality rate, thus triggering fears about the dreaded African swine fever (ASF).
We were able to get in touch with newly-appointed Secretary William Dar of the Department of Agriculture later in the afternoon, and he was very composed when he said that the DA was investigating the outbreak of a hog disease that could be a case of hog cholera, not necessarily ASF.
It would take anywhere from three weeks to more than a month to perform tests that would confirm exactly what disease ails some of our piggeries, as laboratory tests have to be done abroad.
Some Taiwanese hog raisers in Luzon likewise were quite apprehensive, as a determination of ASF could “kill” the industry. But large hog raisers are very strict about quarantine measures such as foot baths for personnel as well as truck ingress and egress, and even visiting their farms are like visiting the ICU of a hospital. So the probability of ASF contaminating big hog raisers is quite low.
Still, we have many so-called “household” or “backyard” piggeries, which is a livelihood project especially in the provinces.
So the Manila Economic and Cultural Office issued a disclaimer that Philippine hogs are afflicted with ASF, stating that confirmatory tests are still to be conducted by the DA. Meanwhile, we understand Taiwan’s strict quarantine measures, even on airborne passengers who now have to go through strict inspection of both checked-in and hand-carried luggage when entering the island.
Upon disembarking from a plane at a Taiwan airport, passengers are given either a “pass” green card where hand-carried luggage for non-ASF infected countries need not be subjected to hand-carried luggage X-ray and physical inspection, or a red card which would require stringent inspection.
Taiwan is very strict about quarantine measures to ensure that the island stays free from diseases that afflict meat, poultry, and plants—as every country should be.
Passengers are given warnings whether upon departure or in the airplane before touchdown about these strict quarantine measures. A year ago, when the ASF had not yet become a serious hazard, Filipinos could bring in pork chicharron, which is already processed, although un-cooked or processed meat products, such as tapa and longganisa were already prohibited from entry, along with fruits and plant varieties. Nowadays, all kinds of meat products are disallowed from entry through passengers, and imports are thoroughly tested and screened.
While the ASF virus is not harmful to humans, it can spread very quickly among hogs, such that even cooked pork afflicted with the virus, once ingested by animals, could infect the hog population.
Hopefully, the outbreak reported in some backyard piggeries are just a case of hog cholera, and not the yet incurable and highly contagious ASF.
We have to congratulate Sec. Willy Dar for DA’s instant response, the control measures which he immediately ordered even if it meant culling hogs within a one-kilometer radius of piggeries where some disease was detected. Above all, Sec. Willy’s cool and composed handling during the press conference he called last Monday, so as not to raise panic or premature conclusions, is duly noted.
Meanwhile, Filipinos visiting Taiwan will just have to undergo the not-so-bothersome inspection, mostly through X-rays, and never try to sneak in some meat goodies, whether our favorite chicharron or even canned meat.