Since the second quarter of 2019 until this early of the current year, the Philippines had been hit with various calamities that have sent its economy hurtling down. All these disastrous phenomena were borne out of natural causes.
Towards the middle of 2019 the African Swine Fever (ASF) crippled the swine industry in a large part of central and northern Luzon, including the provinces within the peripheries of the national capital region.
During the last quarter of the same year also, a series of strong earthquakes leveled to the grounds thousands of houses in some towns and cities in southern and central Mindanao regions. So massive was the destruction that even the seats of local governments in areas affected were destroyed and people have to be hauled in evacuation centers for them to escape the hazards of landslides and further destruction of their properties that could also endanger their lives.
In barely two months into this year, two major cataclysmic incidents again devastate the country. And these are the eruption of Taal volcano in Batangas, and the onset of the global health emergency brought about by the so-called Novel Corona Virus or NCoV that started in Wuhan City in China.
In between those major disasters were strong storms coupled with floods. The impact of the latter two may not be as massive as the others as mostly, storms and floods are confined in certain areas where these hit.
Then, only last week, the resurgence of the ASF hit – again — in areas of Southern and Central Mindanao regions.
There is no doubt that among the natural disasters the NCoV prevalence is the most disastrous to the Philippine economy. It hits deep into the core of the country’s several industries especially those that source its raw materials as well as those that sell their finished products to China. And perhaps the most badly hit is the country’s tourism industry and those that serve its operation like the airline businesses, tourist resorts and other related economic endeavors.
Locally however, the onset of ASF appears to be most debilitating to the economy. We have observed its impact on the hog raisers in Davao Occidental and in South Cotabato. They could not hide their mourning of the forced culling of their animals even if signs of ASF infection have not yet manifested. There are the lockdowns imposed by neighboring towns and cities. Then come the order from local governments of cities and provinces in both the Visayas and Mindanao to ban entry of live hogs, as well as other pork products from areas known hit by the ASF.
We have personally witnessed how the ASF scare converted the meat section of Calinan Public market into some kind of a retreat facility. Of the 15 or 20 or so meat stalls only three had pork displays with hardly a single market goer approaching. Meanwhile, meat stalls selling beef and chicken were having brisk business.
We learned from the owner of one of the three stalls displaying pork products that normally on Sunday’s she would have between five to eight heads of hogs butchered and sold from as early as 4 in the morning to as late as 7 o’clock in the evening.
Last Sunday she told us that as of the time we approached her to inquire how the ASF impacts on her business she said she barely sold about 50 percent of her one head slaughtered pig. Her three stall hands were virtually doing nothing as there were no customers to attend to. On Sundays before the ASF hit Lamanan and a neighboring barangay in Calinan district, her stall hands hardly talked to each other or to customers lining up waiting for their turn to be served.
That scenario that we have witnessed, we admit, was too obvious a description of how bad the effect of the ASF on the swine industry in this part of Mindanao.
Yes, the meat stalls minus the pork is one very unusual scene in a public market where consumers troop on Sunday’s to buy their meat supply good for a week’s consumption.
Of course we have no doubt that the government through the Department of Agriculture (DA) may have done everything in its power to prevent the resurgence of the ASF that towards the last quarter of last year appeared to have slowly vanished.
But then again, the holidays might have slackened a little the government’s guard. What a price to pay for such complacency but another big hit on the country’s swine industry.
For now, no one, not even the government, knows how long can the economy stand against all these odds.
Meanwhile the greedy businessmen, from the big-time fish traders, dealers and retailers in the market are jacking up the prices of their merchandise by as much as 20 to 30 percent. Imagine the lowly tawilis fish or tamban sold at between P70 to P90 a kilo prior to the ASF in Mindanao was selling at P120 per kilo last Sunday!
Prices of locally grown vegetables also shot up like crazy. The obvious reason – the ASF presence – was never mentioned. They simply said that the weather is not good for growing vegetables; for better catch in the sea, and again, the high transport cost even if prices of fuel products are on the downtrend.
Well, that is clearly one sure way of making easy money at the suffering of the many disadvantaged among us.
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