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Mindanao Close to Ebola-Free Status

by 5m Editor
29 July 2010, at 10:53am

PHILIPPINES - It is hoped that Mindanao will receive Ebola virus-free status soon, and pork exports to Singapore are expected to resume by the end of this year.

The Philippines may start exporting pork to Singapore before the end of the year as the government expects to establish an Ebola-free zone in Mindanao soon, the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) said.

Business Mirror of the Philippines reports Dr Reildrin Morales, officer in charge of BAI's Animal Health Division, saying that components of the antigen kits from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, may soon be obtained by the Philippines.

Dr Morales said: "CDC has indicated in a letter that we will already be given [components of the] antigen kits."

He disclosed that the establishment of an Ebola-free zone, specifically in General Santos City, is a requirement of the Singaporean government.

He added that, once the testing kits arrive, the government will begin the process of setting up the Ebola-free zone.

Testing hogs for Ebola Reston, BAI officials said, will increase the confidence of Singapore in the safety of pork products from General Santos City.

In an earlier interview, Mr Morales said: "The Singaporean government is keen on importing pork products from us. They are closely monitoring our progress in the establishment of the Ebola-free zone in General Santos."

BAI noted that Singapore is a lucrative market for pork products as consumption is 5,000 head a day.

In December 2008, the Department of Agriculture (DA) decided to hold the shipment of two 40-footer vans containing some 50,000 metric tons of pork products bound for Singapore as a 'precautionary measure'.

The Matutum Meat Packing Corp. (MMPC) in Polomolok, South Cotabato was set to make its inaugural export of pork and pork products to Singapore on the day the DA and the Department of Health confirmed the presence of the virus.

The DA noted that the Ebola-Reston virus that struck local hogs is entirely different from the three other Ebola sub-types, which are all potentially fatal to humans. Unlike the Zaire, Ivory Coast and Sudan strains, the Reston strain has not been found to be fatal or to have caused illnesses to humans in contact with the infected animals.

So far, only the MMPC was granted accreditation by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore to export pork products.

BAI, however, said Singapore continuously evaluates farms in Mindanao for accreditation.

According to Business Mirror, the Singaporean government was keen on importing pork from Mindanao, an area declared as foot-and-mouth disease-free by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Meanwhile, Agriculture Undersecretary, Salvador Salacup, disclosed that the DA will ask for a budget of 700 million pesos (PHP) for the sector in 2011. The livestock sector was granted a budget of PHP450 million this year. The funds, he said, would be used mainly to control and eradicate diseases in the livestock population in the Philippines.