Taipei, Aug. 19 (CNA) The presence of African swine fever (ASF) has yet to be confirmed in the Philippines, the country's office in Taiwan said Monday, as Taiwan tightened luggage checks on travelers from the Philippines as a precaution against the disease.
"While there is no confirmation as to the presence of ASF in the Philippines, MECO respects the prerogative of Taiwan authorities to raise an airport alert on baggage brought in by visitors from the Philippines," Angelito Banayo, Manila Economic and Cultural Office Chairman and the Philippines' representative to Taiwan, said.
His statement came after local media reported that suspected ASF outbreaks hit Bulacan and Rizal provinces in the Philippines, citing Taiwan's Central Emergency Operation Center for ASF.
As a result, passengers from the Philippines arriving at Taiwan's airports starting Monday were subject to hand luggage checks for pork products.
A Taiwanese businessman surnamed Hsieh (謝) who works in the swine feed sector and has lived in Bulacan province for decades confirmed to CNA by phone on Monday that local authorities have been burying pigs that died of a still unconfirmed disease recently.
Regarding the suspected outbreak of ASF, Banayo said the Philippines' Department of Agriculture is still conducting tests on the reported swine deaths and have yet to arrive at conclusive results on the presence of ASF in the country.
"From the very beginning of the ASF scare, MECO has been advising all Filipinos entering Taiwan of the ban on pork products and the penalties imposed by Taiwan authorities," Banayo said, adding that MECO is aware that such action is necessary to prevent the spread of ASF.
With tests results still pending, Philippine agricultural officials are hoping the cause of the recent hog deaths in the two provinces is hog cholera and not ASF, MECO said.
Taiwan has clamped down on pork products being brought into the country to prevent the disease, which is lethal to pigs and has no known vaccine or cure, from spreading to domestic pig farms and undermining the local pork industry.