The Department of Agriculture (DA) is determined to eradicate the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus in the Philippines by strengthening disease control measures. Agriculture Secretary Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has allocated P177.78 million in funds for the government's Avian Influenza Protection Program, which aims to implement preemptive measures before and during bird flu outbreaks.
DA-BAI Assistant Director Arlene Asteria Vytiaco emphasized the agency's intensified efforts to address the issue, including close coordination with local government units (LGUs) and stakeholders, disease investigation activities, and surveillance of quarantine zones. The bureau is also conducting systematic culling and disposal of affected poultry animals at the first sign of detection.
In January 2023, DA-BAI swiftly implemented depopulation, intensive surveillance, and cleaning and disinfection measures at a layer poultry farm in Santa Maria, Bulacan, after confirming it tested positive for HPAI Subtype H5N1. Since the first outbreak in early 2022, the bureau has reported a total of six cases from various areas in the country.
To speed up the eradication of the virus, DA-BAI advises farm owners and workers to regularly practice cleaning and disinfection, limit farm visitors, and employ bird-proofing strategies. Owners are also encouraged to report unusual mortality to manage the risk of further infection. Additionally, DA-BAI provides up to P300,000 cash assistance to affected poultry farms.
The DA previously issued memorandum orders to temporarily ban the importation of domestic and wild birds and poultry products from countries with confirmed AI virus outbreaks to prevent the virus from entering the country. The presence of migratory birds, which are common at this time of year, was also identified as a risk factor, as they can affect the local poultry population with the virus from infected countries.
While the Philippines is yet to regain its AI-free status since the previous outbreaks in 2017 and 2020, the DA's proactive measures give hope for a positive outcome. With concerted efforts from various stakeholders, the country is moving closer to achieving a bird flu-free environment.