Road to Recovery and Repopulation

December 27, 2019

When renowned agriculture expert, William Dar, took his oath on August 5, 2019 before President Rodrigo Duterte to head the Department of Agriculture (DA), little did we know that he assumed this post two decades ago. Dar was agriculture chief from 1998 to 1999, during the administration of Joseph Estrada. He was also Estrada's presidential adviser on food security in 1999.

In 2016, Dar was awarded The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Award from Duterte. In the agricultural research community, he is reputed as a long-time director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat). For three 5-year terms, from 2000 to 2014, he led the global agricultural research institute.

In recent months since his appointment, Dar is poised to improve a sector of the Philippine economy that Duterte had once called the country's "weakest link." As of December 5, 2019, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Dar faces the challenge of implementing soon a zoning plan to contain the Africal swine fever that has gripped the Philippines' hog-raising industry. Valued at P200 billion, the local swine sector has been losing P1 billion, or about $20 million a month, since the Department of Agriculture confirmed the first ASF outbreak on July 25.

A Philippine map that shows that the DA designated compartmentalized "zones". This was presented by Secretarty Dar in a meeting with Inquirer reporters and editors. The various regions were grouped into five zones that were color-coded to indicate the level of ASF contamination. It is expected that the zoning map will be implemented before the end of the year and monitored by the government's ASF national task force.

Broad classifications will be named the "free zone" and the "contaminated zone." Under a free zone, this is the area where there are no reported cases of ASF, like in the Visayas and Mindanao, including Catanduanes, Masbate and in Mimaropa. Within this free zone, hogs and pork products can run on free trade anywhere in the country provided that standard shipment protocols are followed. The contaminated zone is further divided into four subzones, namely "protected zone," "surveillance zone," "infected zone," and "buffer zone."

Included in the infected zone are cities or municipalities, such as Bulacan and Pampanga, and provinces with confirmed cases of ASF. Areas within the infected zone could only trade live pigs, pork and pork products with other infected areas. However, the agency has yet to provide a list of products like canned and fully cooked pork that these areas could trade with the free zone.

In the buffer zone, these will be provinces that still have infected municipalities or cities but have not reported new ASF cases. The municipalities of Bayambang and Mapandan in Pampanga would be classified under the infected zone, while the rest of the province would be categorized under the buffer zone.

Organized by the Philippine Veterinary Drug Foundation Inc.