Editorial: Not today

SET aside economic implications, but can you imagine Cebu without the lechon?

The African Swine Fever (ASF) looms like an advancing wave of staggering zombies or remember the White Walkers breaking through the North Wall in the series Game of Thrones (GOT). Only that pork supply chains, despite regulatory agencies and inspection protocols, may be hard to contain in an imperfect, highly-porous world. Even the Pampanga-based Mekeni Food Corp. was surprised why specific batches of two of its products were found to be tainted with DNA traces of ASF despite its compliance with all regulatory requirements.

The Mekeni case proves there are weak links in the manner the ASF is being contained by government. Immediately, this makes Cebu Provincial Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia’s decision crucial more than ever.

“It does not elate me to state that because of all that we are now seeing in Luzon, where the ASF virus is obviously not contained and in fact is spreading in alarming proportions, as governor of the Province of Cebu tasked with the duty to protect the province, its inhabitants and our P11-billion hog industry, I have decided to extend the total ban on all pork and pork-related products coming not only from ASF-infected countries but also from Luzon,” said Garcia on Nov. 4, 2019.

The Province is set to amend Executive Order 16, which banned live hogs and pork products until Dec. 28, to extend the ban to June 30, 2020, or half the year next year.

Garcia wants assurance that the virus has been completely contained or measures are in place to avoid the spread of the virus.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s ASF bulletin had reported on Oct. 24 that 62,000 pigs have died or had been discarded since the outbreak. The virus had spread in the provinces of Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Cavite and Quezon City in Metro Manila.

If by terrible chance the virus makes its way to Cebu, not only will it destabilize the P11-billion hog industry, it will practically mar the island’s branding, famously pegged on the celebrated lechon, “best pork in the world,” to recall the late food writer Anthony Bourdain’s description of it. Pork is, indeed, a huge deal as far as Cebu tourism is concerned.

So raise the borders as far as the ASF is concerned. So is winter coming? As they said it in GOT, “Not today.”