Japan, South Korea and Singapore have imposed a temporary ban on poultry products and pet birds from the Philippines after Manila confirmed the outbreak of bird flu in Pampanga.
Documents obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that the three Asian countries notified Manila about the import ban after the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced on August 11 that bird flu struck thousands of fowls in San Luis, Pampanga.
In an official communication dated August 14, South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Mafra) informed the Philippine Agriculture Office (PAO) in Seoul that it has “prohibited the importation of Philippine fresh, chilled, frozen chicken meat and pet birds” effective August 12.
“The Philippine government is requested to stop issuing Korean export quarantine certificate and export shipment of chicken meat and pet birds from August 12,” read the official communication, which was translated by the PAO office.
“Please note that chicken meat and pet birds shipped from August 12 will be treated as import-prohibited items,” it added.
However, the Mafra clarified that any poultry shipments from Manila that are scheduled to arrive before the effectivity of the temporary ban will be allowed to enter Seoul only if these pass the additional quarantine requirements.
“Philippine pet birds, which are in the process of import quarantine or scheduled to arrive [except for the shipment from August 12] will undergo additional clinical examination and HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] medical examination [antigen examination],” the Mafra said.
“Philippine chicken meat, which is in the process of import quarantine or scheduled to arrive [except for the shipment from August 1], will undergo strengthened examination,” the Mafra added. Tokyo also informed Manila of its decision to prohibit the entry of Philippine poultry products in Japan via an official communication dated August 14.
Japan’s Chief Veterinary Officer Norio Kumagai addressed his letter to Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Livestock Enrico P. Garzon Jr. “This is to inform you that we have suspended the import of poultry products [other than feather and down] from the Philippines as of August 12, based on the information on the detection of HPAI [virus serotype H5] at a poultry farm in the Philippines, which was notified to OIE by your authority,” the letter read, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror.
However, Kumagai said poultry pro-ducts produced before July 2 will be allowed to enter Tokyo. “According to the information provided to the OIE, the date of start of the event is the July 24. Based on this date and the maximum incubation period of avian influenza [21 days], we have estimated the earliest date of exposure as the 3rd of July,” he added.
“Poultry products attached with health certificates certifying that the products were produced in the Philippines on and before July 2 and were stored and handled in a way to prevent exposure of pathogens of any animal infectious diseases prior to shipment will be the exception from the suspension,” Kumagai said.
Kumagai, who is also the Director of Animal Health Division of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’s Food Safety and Consumers Affairs Bureau, said the import ban will be imposed “indefinitely”.
“We would like you to provide us with detailed information of the outbreak, including date of stamping out and disinfection for affected premises when it becomes available to let us review this suspension appropriately,” he said.
Also on August 14 Singapore’s Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) informed Garzon it will “immediately” ban the importation of ornamental birds from the Philippines.
“[The] AVA will impose a temporary restriction on the import of ornamental birds from the Philippines with immediate effect,” said Charmain Chng, senior veterinarian at the AVA, in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by BusinessMirror.
“We note that there are currently no establishments in the Philippines that are approved by the AVA for the export of poultry, poultry products and egg products to Singapore,” Chng added.
The AVA said it would await updates from Manila, particularly the eradication and surveillance measures rolled out by the government.
Under the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the World Organisation for Animal Health, or OIE, a country will only be declared free from bird flu if it would not report any outbreak within 90 days after the final disinfection of the affected areas.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said the government is almost done culling 200,000 birds within the 1-kilometer contain area of ground zero farms in San Luis, Pampanga. After all fowls have been culled, the government will observe a 21-day rest period before deploying sentinel birds in the ground zero area.
Should the sentinel birds show no signs of bird flu after 35 days, then the area will be declared free from the disease, according to Piñol. The DA chief last Friday announced that bird flu also struck two towns in Nueva Ecija. Piñol vowed to put in place measures to stop the spread of the virus in the province.