Gov’t pursues clean health certification

The Philippines is poised to be declared as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)-free this year by an international body. This anticipated international recognition is seen to advance the global competitiveness of the country in trade and animal health terms.

Documents to support this proposition have been submitted in January last year to the World Organization for Animal Health or Office International des Epizooties (OIE) to declare Luzon to be FMD-free. The documents are strong enough to earn the coveted declaration that the country is FMD-free.

Luzon, according to officials of the Bureau of Animal Industry, is the only remaining zone in the country that has not yet been certified as FMD-free without vaccination. Areas vying for the certification are composed of Region I (Ilocos Region), the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Region II (Cagayan Valley), Region IV-B (Mimaropa) and Region V (Bicol Region).

Totally eradicating the contagious animal virus in Luzon marks the last phase of the National Program to Control and Eradicate FMD in the Philippines after almost 15 years of battle against it.

In the OIE certification, it can declare any country as FMD-free in the following categories: FMD-free where vaccination is not practiced, FMD-free where vaccination is practiced, with FMD-free zone(s) where vaccination is not practiced and with FMD-free zone(s) where vaccination is practiced.

Currently, the Philippines is one of the 10 countries in the list of the OIE with FMD-free zones where vaccination is not practiced particularly in the Mindanao and Visayas-Palawan-Masbate areas. They were internationally recognized in 2001 and 2002, respectively, per Resolution No. 19 of the OIE’s 77th general session last year.

Also in the official list, 64 countries are FMD-free where vaccination is not practiced, one country is FMD-free where vaccination is practiced, and five have FMD-free zones where vaccination is practiced.

The BAI-National FMD Task Force (NFMDTF) pursued aggressive moves to upgrade the status of Luzon to become FMD-free through progressive zoning approach for disease monitoring and surveillance, staging a strong public awareness campaign, and a systematic animal movement control.

Collaboration with local government units also greatly improved and private sectors, such as slaughterhouse owners, were involved in the massive campaign against FMD.

The creation of a compliance monitoring team (CMT), which started with the National Meat Inspection Service in 2003, helped prevent the spread of the disease by confiscating and condemning infected animals. Slaughterhouses and stockyards in Metro Manila are also continuously monitored.

Progressive zoning approach resulted in the declaration of Regions I, CAR (except Benguet), Region III (Aurora) as FMD-free zones with vaccination in December 2005 while provinces of Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga, Tarlac, Cavite, Rizal and Quezon were classified as protected areas. The declaration was made by then Agriculture Secretary Domingo F. Panganiban.

As a stringent measure to follow-through the government’s aim for Luzon to finally seize an FMD-free certification without vaccination status, Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap in June last year ordered through Administrative Order No. 12 the withdrawal of vaccination against FMD in the Philippines.
Cessation of FMD vaccination in Luzon, inventory of all available FMD vaccines in the country, movement management of both FMD susceptible animals and unvaccinated FMD susceptible animals, and the institutionalization of standard shipping protocol were ordered for immediate compliance and implementation last year.
Relative to this order, the NFMDTF conducted routine and risk-based surveillance system in complementation with clinical monitoring and negative monitoring. This was meant to ensure that the withdrawal procedure was not endangered with the circulation of the FMD virus.

Moves were also taken to ensure that stakeholders are properly informed and consulted.

DA reports showed that the livestock sector lost an estimated P2 billion to the FMD during its outbreak in 1995.

Efforts of the government to succeed on its FMD eradication program supported by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) through Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is expected to gain pay off as it succeeds to obtain the certification this year as an FMD-free country where vaccination is not practiced.