By Jose Cielito Reganit

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – The initiative of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to hasten the acquisition of avian flu vaccine would help revitalize the country’s poultry industry and ensure affordable food on every Filipino family’s table, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said Thursday.

This developed after President Marcos, who concurrently heads the Department of Agriculture, met Tuesday night with leading Indonesian animal health firm PT Vaksindo Satwa Nusantara.

Vaksindo intends to cooperate with its local partner, Univet Nutrition and Animal Healthcare Company (UNAHCO Inc.) Philippines, on veterinary vaccines and will pursue an infusion of USD2 million in investments this year.

According to the Presidential Communications Office, the company will soon provide the Philippines with an avian influenza vaccine.

“The early delivery of Vaksindo vaccines could spur the revitalization of our country’s poultry industry, which has faced serious challenges due to the continuing threat of the avian flu,” Romualdez said in a statement.

Among others, he noted that egg producers confirmed late April a 20-percent drop in their production due to the culling of at least 10 million chicken layers amid the avian flu outbreak that was first reported in the country in 2017.

As a result, prices of eggs spiked early this year with the average cost of a medium-sized egg in Metro Manila markets rising from PHP6.90 to PHP8.70. In some markets, prices even reach PHP10 just for a regular-sized egg.

On the other hand, the price of whole chicken in Metro Manila ranged from PHP150 to PHP200 as of June this year, which could be partly attributed to the threat of the avian flu.

Romualdez said this is the reason why the meeting with Vaksindo officials was among the President’s top priorities as part of his trip to Indonesia to participate in the 43rd ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Jakarta.

“The President is keenly aware of the plight of the poultry industry sector and the engagement with Vaksindo is a positive step towards addressing the problem of avian flu that continues to beset the sector,” he said. “Making avian flu vaccines available to our poultry sector, along with the adoption of best practices, would help ensure we could sustain the encouraging signs of recovery of the industry.”

Romualdez noted that the Marcos administration is also attending to similar challenges facing the livestock industry, citing President Marcos’ earlier statement stressing the “urgent need” to revitalize the livestock and poultry industries “in pursuit of food security and global competitiveness.”

Speaking during the opening ceremony of the Livestock and Aquaculture Philippines 2023 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City on July 5, Marcos vowed to address the challenges besetting the two sectors and forge partnerships for their development.

“The sector not only puts food on the table for millions of Filipinos, it also provides a means of livelihood for countless farmers and other ancillary service providers,” the President said.

Romualdez expressed hopes for the enactment of a law that would establish the Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines, which is envisioned to focus on applied research and studies to develop diagnostic kits and vaccines not only for humans but also for animal and plant diseases.

In December last year, the House of Representatives approved on final reading its version of the measure, House Bill No. 6452.

The counterpart bill in the Senate, Senate Bill No. 941, has yet to hurdle the committee level. (PNA)