DA eyes changes in bird-flu protocol

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is keen on amending its avian-influenza (AI) protocol to ensure that measures to manage bird-flu outbreaks will not cause poultry growers to incur losses.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said the DA’s biosecurity experts are currently reviewing the AI protocol of South Korea and the European Union. Piñol noted the AI protocol of the EU and South Korea does not prescribe the set up of a 7-kilometer “buffer zone” to ground zero.

“In European countries, they also do not have the 1-kilometer [quarantine zone]. Officials only depopulate farms that were directly affected by bird flu. They do not depopulate the area around the ground zero, they just monitor it,” he told reporters in an interview
on Wednesday.

“We are amending our AI protocol because the measures we imposed really had an adverse impact on poultry growers. We are considering their economic viability because the poultry industry really suffered due to the protocols we implemented,” Piñol added.

The DA chief also noted that South Korea’s AI protocol prescribes the set up of a 500-meter quarantine zone.

Piñol said, however, that he will let poultry growers and biosecurity experts decide on the changes that will be introduced in the country’s AI protocol.

“I will have to defer to the decision of the stakeholders and our biosecurity experts. My only role here is just the implementer and not a decision-maker as far as biosecurity measures are concerned,” he said.

Poultry growers, egg producers, and other industry stakeholders will convene and come up with a position paper on the AI protocol before the end of the month, according to Piñol.

Following the confirmation of a bird-flu outbreak in Pampanga, the DA’s attached agency, the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), established a 1-km quarantine zone and a 7-km buffer zone around ground zero. Fowls within the 1-km quarantine zone were culled to prevent the spread of the virus.

Also, shipments of dressed chicken and other poultry products outside the 7-km buffer zone were prohibited by the government while the depopulation of affected farms
was ongoing.

The United Broiler Raisers Associated (Ubra) is amenable to the idea of removing both the 1-km quarantine zone and 7-km buffer zone.

“The Philippines [must] conform to international standards and practices. In other countries, only farms in ground zero were depopulated.

We support that, especially since that is being done by the EU,” Ubra President Elias Jose Inciong told reporters in a separate interview.

The government reviews its bird-flu protocol, titled “AI Protection Program: Manual of Procedures”, annually.

The earlier version of the protocol had even prescribed a 10-km quarantine zone, according to the BAI.