Piñol to Dar: “Stop the blame game”

(Eagle News)–“Stop the blame game.”

Former Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol had this to say to Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who blamed the outbreak of the African Swine Flu in Luzon to the Piñol-led  Department of Agriculture.

Dar had said there were already signs of the ASF in May but that the department then kept this information from  stakeholders.

“To say that I was disappointed by the accusation of a fellow Cabinet official under this administration is an understatement,” Piñol said.

According to Piñol, in the first place, the Bureau of Animal Industry had “not recorded or reported to the OIE or World Animal Health Organisation any incidence of ASF outbreak in May, June or July.”

Piñol said in fact, it was “only in August when the first case was reported in Rizal and specimens were sent to the OIE for validation.”

He said the claim that the ASF was already in the country as early as May also “reeks with an utter lack of knowledge of the characteristic of the virus which causes the ASF,” noting that according to experts, the incubation period of the ASF virus is between 4 to 19 days and it could decimate a hog population in 48 to 72 hours.

“This means that if indeed the ASF was already present in the country in May, by August when Sec. Dar took over the DA, it should have already wiped out the hog population among backyard farmers in Central Luzon,” Piñol said.

As for the interceptions made by the DA-BAI Quarantine Teams at the Manila International Airport, Piñol noted that intercepted were “pork products and not ASF infections.”

“The reported outbreak of ASF was in areas near the dumpsites where apparently food wastes are being gathered and sold to backyard hog raisers for swill feeding, a practice which was specifically identified as one of the “Don’ts” in the BABES campaign of DA-BAI,” Piñol said.

Even assuming that the ASF virus entered the country “during the transition period which unfortunately manifested after Sec. Dar’s takeover of the DA on Aug. 6, engaging in a blame game will not do us any good,” Piñol said.

He said Dar, who he said has “long lobbied to be appointed” Secretary of Agriculture, “should have prepared for the problems he expected to encounter before he assumed office following my resignation as DA Secretary on June 26.”

Instead, Piñol said Dar “was more concerned with identifying ‘Piñol’s People’ and dressing down officials in public.”

“I do not know Sec. Dar’s management style but I never embarrass my fellow workers in public. That is not my style,” he said.

According to Piñol, though, even if Dar “has offended me with his irresponsible accusations and childish actuations of looking for people to blame in the face of crisis,” he was still making a commitment to support the new Agriculture secretary.

“Let me repeat what I said during the turn-over: ‘You cannot and should not fail as Secretary of Agriculture in the last two years of the Duterte Presidency because it could mean hard and difficult life for our farmers, fishermen and agricultural stakeholders of this country,'” Piñol said.

“Enough of the blame game. Let us work together in addressing the problems. I hope you will take this piece of advice knowing that you are the Agriculture expert and I am just a farm boy,” Piñol added.