Briones: The other ‘pandemic’

Publio J. Briones III
·2 min read

The threat of the African swine fever (ASF) took a backseat when the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) arrived on our shores in March last year.

Although highly contagious and very fatal, ASF kills only domestic and wild pigs. It poses no risk to human health. At least, that’s what the experts say.

When it was first detected in Luzon in September 2019, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia was quick to ban the entry of pork products and live hogs from disease-hit areas.

Later that year, the governor extended the ban to cover areas in the south when blood samples from pigs in Davao Occidental and elsewhere in Mindanao also tested positive for the disease.

Because of her quick action, Cebu Province and its P11 billion hog industry has been spared.

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella also imposed a similar ban. Well, he had no choice really, considering that the major port of entry to Cebu Island is in the city. You see, the city may not be in Garcia’s jurisdiction, but you cannot separate it from the rest of the province.

It goes without saying then that if ASF is detected in the city, there is a very big chance it can spread to other parts of Cebu.

I’m not sure if Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan followed suit. After all, the airport is in Mactan Island. Maybe he did. It’s just that no one was there to take a photo.

Anyway, in May last year, Garcia announced that the ban would stay indefinitely, or at least until the Province could eliminate the threat of the coronavirus, while Labella allowed the entry of pork products and live hogs from areas in the archipelago that were untouched by ASF, much to the consternation of the City Council and, I guess, the rest of Cebu.

At any rate, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about pigs and pork, “the other white meat,” while Covid cases in the city have been steadily rising in the past few days.

You see, ASF is now right outside our doorstep — figuratively, that is — after pigs in three towns in Leyte in Region 8 were found to be infected earlier this month. That is why Central Visayas has been on “heightened alert” since Jan. 15, 2021, and why the governor, on Friday, Jan. 22, issued additional guidelines for trucks that carry Cebu’s pigs to other areas in the country.

Some of you might not consider ASF an immediate threat, unless, of course, you’re a backyard farmer or the owner of a piggery, but we as consumers have had to suffer the consequences.

Just take one look at the price of a kilo of pork belly in the grocery and you’ll know what I mean.