The Iloilo Provincial Government is gearing up for the second year of its Pork Festival which showcases its recovery efforts against African swine fever (ASF).

“The Pork Festival, the way I describe it, is a recovery program and other measures. In our investigations, some farms survived because their owners took the effort to adjust their practices,” said Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensro Jr. in an interview on Thursday, April 18.

“We want to get that experience, and we will see what we can again cascade to teach our farmers,” he added.

He said it is not pork eating but an ASF program that includes strengthening biosecurity measures and the sentinel program that highlights the festival.

“Our municipalities are set. We have municipalities that graduated from red to pink. Meaning they are ready for the sentinel program,” he said.

The provincial government has allocated an initial PHP8.31 million for 831 qualified farmers from 10 municipalities for the sentineling, on top of the similar program of the Department of Agriculture.

These include San Miguel, Barotac Viejo, New Lucena, Sta. Barbara, Mina, Dingle, Concepcion, Batad, Banate, and Oton towns that progressed into pink or buffer zone status from the previous red or infected zone.

Each farmer will have two heads of piglets that will serve as trial piglets. If they survive, it means the area is already free from the virus.

“We are waiting for the completion of the documents so we can have a declaration,” the governor added.

In addition, the province also allocated P10 million for another piglet dispersal program that would be released to areas where farmers were affected by the El Niño phenomenon.

“This is not a sentinel program but a measure to help farmers hit by El Niño through the raising of piglets,” he said.

Through these efforts, the governor looked forward to increasing the swine inventory, which dropped by 71 percent since the first case of ASF in September 2022.

As of April 15, the province has 79,570 swine heads or equivalent to 35 percent sufficient, although, including shipped-in frozen and processed foods, Iloilo is 70 percent sufficient, as per data from the Bureau of Animal Industry –Veterinary Quarantine Station.

The governor is hoping to roll out the sentineling and piglet dispersal next month.Perla Lena/PNA