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By: Vanessa L. Almeda | Published Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, in a press conference, expressed her delight upon hearing how Agriculture Secretary William Dar lauded Capitol’s anti-ASF efforts that continued to protect Cebu from the swine flu virus. (Photo: Junjie Mendoza)

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia was elated upon hearing the report that Agriculture Secretary William Dar commended the Cebu Province for its measures undertaken against the African Swine Fever (ASF).

"Si Secretary Dar gyud? Oh really? Manindog atong balahibo oi," the governor said as she confirmed with reporters where the report was coming from during a press conference on Wednesday, January 29, 2020.

In a news report by CDN Digital on Tuesday, Dar said it is good that Visayas, Mimaropa and Mindanao have not been affected by the ASF, attributing it to the strict quarantine measures implemented by the local government units.

In the Visayas, the provinces of Cebu and Bohol first issued the ban on the entry of pork products from Luzon and other countries confirmed to have ASF.

Dar lauded the measure as it protected the hog industry in these areas.

“Mabuti at ang Mimaropa, Visayas at Mindanao walang ASF. Let us protect that kasi ang laki ng value ng hog industry na about P260 billion all over the country," Dar was quoted as saying.

Garcia expressed her appreciation of the fact that the provincial government’s efforts in keeping Cebu safe from ASF have paid off.

"We may not have always agreed initially but even during those times I never disagreed to be disagreeable with them. I was just protecting the province because that to me was my primary responsibility," she said.

The governor had not faltered in her decision despite two other Cabinet officials, namely Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque, asked her to reconsider her decision.

"Now that they have seen the effectiveness of our efforts, we look forward to a more cooperative and collaborative effort with the DA in keeping Cebu ASF-free," she added.

Garcia said keeping the ban despite the pressure from Cabinet officials, private groups like the Philippine Association of Meat Processors (Pampi), and others actually resulted to a positive offshoot for the Cebu hog industry as several companies have already sourced their pork needs locally.

"And you know what is the positive offshoot ini? It is giving business to our local hog industry," she said.

Several food chain and food manufacturing companies met with the governor for the past weeks including San Miguel Foods, Inc., Max's Chicken, and Unilever Philippines.

Filipino food chain giant Jollibee Foods and Chowking, as a result of the pork ban, are now locally sourcing their raw materials in Cebu.

"I told them you better reassess your position because I may extend the ban indefinitely. Kamo as responsible food manufacturers should be very prudent in sourcing your materials and be very sure that this is ASF-free because that's food that you are dealing with," she said.

The governor added she is protecting the interest of the local hog raisers, and not big multinational food companies, since they are dependent on the little income they earn to pay for their children’s educational needs, and house repairs, among other needs.

"Yes, I am protecting the backyard hog raisers, not the big ones. Extra income intawon nila ba," Garcia said.

The Capitol is also pushing for the protection of the thousands of farmers and fisherfolks in the province by having them insured. (Vanessa L. Almeda)