Taiwan Government Implements Urgent Measures After African Swine Fever Outbreak in Philippines

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
September 9, 2019 Updated: September 9, 2019

TAIPEI, Taiwan—Local authorities have imposed a fine for travelers bringing pork products from the Philippines, after the Southeast Asian country confirmed cases of African swine fever (ASF).

Taiwan’s Central Emergency Operation Center, a government agency under the Council of Agriculture, reported on its website on Sept. 9 that the Philippines has just become the eighth Asian country to be hit with the disease, following China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea, Laos, and Burma.

Outside of China, none of these governments reported a single case of ASF before August last year, when the Chinese regime confirmed its first outbreak. However, none of these governments have attributed their outbreak to the spreading of the virus from China.

While the disease is not dangerous to humans, there is no effective vaccine against the virus, which can be spread among domestic and wild pigs.

The northeastern city of Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province, reported the first outbreak of the disease on Aug. 1, 2018. Since then, the outbreak has spread to all Chinese provinces and municipalities. China is the world’s biggest pork consumer and producer.

The Taiwan emergency center announced that passengers from the Philippines who are caught with pork products by Taiwanese customs officials will be fined 200,000 New Taiwan Dollars ($6,407). Those who can’t pay the penalty will be turned over to the local immigration bureau and refused entry to the island.

The announcement by Taiwanese authorities came just a few hours after the Philippines News Agency (PNA) reported that William Dar, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, confirmed that 14 out of 20 blood samples from infected Philippines pigs sent to the U.K. for testing turned up positive for the disease.

More than 7,000 pigs have been culled in two provinces, Bulacan and Rizal, last month, said Dar, in a press briefing. The country’s swine industry is valued at 260 billion Philippine pesos (about $5 billion) with about 12 million hogs.

He added that the department is verifying if the virus strain that caused the outbreak is similar to those found in Vietnam and China.

In May, Hong Kong culled 6,000 pigs following the discovery of ASF at one of its slaughterhouses. Since October last year, Taiwanese authorities have tested pork sausages imported from Macau, which have turned up positive for the disease at least six times.

On Aug. 9, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reported that between Aug. 2018 to Aug. 2019, close to 5 million pigs have died or been culled because of the disease in Asia.

Taiwan’s emergency center added that it had obtained from an unnamed reliable source that the ASF outbreak in the Philippines occurred in mid-August.

Travelers entering Taiwan are generally not allowed to bring meat products from foreign countries. But many break the rules.

In November last year, upon the rapid spread of ASF in China, Taiwan authorities enacted harsher penalties for those violating customs regulations.

And since February, Taiwan customs authorities stepped up enforcement to ensure that pork products from ASF or ASF-prone countries are detected.

On Feb. 2, the emergency center began deploying x-ray inspection on carry-on luggage belonging to travelers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau at the Taoyuan International Airport.

By April 29—10 days after Beijing announced that all 31 provinces and municipalities had been hit with the outbreak—x-ray inspections on carry-ons had extended to travelers from “high-risk regions”: Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, and Thailand.

In August, the center also designated the Philippines a “high-risk region.”

The center has also added to the list North Korea, Laos, and Russia, as well as countries that have not reported a case of ASF but are at risk given their proximity to infected countries—South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei—in order to safeguard the island’s swine industry from the disease.

Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.