IMPROVED LABORATORY facilities that were upgraded with US assistance have helped better contain the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak and the spread of other animal diseases, Agriculture Undersecretary William C. Medrano.

He said laboratories have been improved or established via a threat capacity-building program supported by the US Department of Defense’s Threat Reduction Agency.

“We can feel the impact of the laboratories that were strengthened, and they are now functioning well. They are reporting significant outputs in the early detection of diseases and also in the surveillance of diseases,” Mr. Medrano said in a television interview Wednesday.  

The program, which started in September 2016, was valued at P1.1 billion. The US Embassy announced on June 17 that the final phase of the program was completed.

A total of seven regional animal diagnostic laboratories were either built or renovated under the program.

“These laboratories were really fitted out with state-of-the-art equipment for disease detection, diagnosis, and testing (to facilitate) early detection and testing of all transboundary animal diseases especially with ASF,” Mr. Medrano said.

Asked to comment further, Mr. Medrano said by mobile phone message that ASF cases have been declining compared to last year.

“From as high as 1,773 ASF cases in August last year, we now only have 251 cases (recorded) in the month of June and 48 cases as of July 9,” Mr. Medrano said.

On July 8, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar declared Lipa City and the towns of San Jose, Malvar, Rosario, Taysan, and Nasugbu in Batangas province to have fully recovered from ASF.

The declaration also reduces the classification of the six areas from red zones (infected) to pink zones (buffer). They can now start hog repopulation efforts and trade within selected zones.

ASF has depleted the hog inventory, resulting in an increase in pork prices. Measures taken by government to address tight supply include the implementation of lower tariffs for pork imports and the launch of credit programs to support hog repopulation. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave