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2 fishermen rescued off Pangasinan

MANILA, Philippines — At least 64 of the country’s 83 provinces have recorded cases of African swine fever (ASF) as the virus continues to batter the hog industry, latest data from the Department of Agriculture (DA) showed yesterday.

As of Dec. 29, the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), an attached agency of the DA, said these ASF-affected provinces were classified as red or infected zones.

The number of provinces under the dark green zone or those considered free from ASF has decreased to 12 from 20 in April, the BAI said.

These ASF-free provinces are Basilan, Batanes, Biliran, Bohol, Bukidnon, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, Siquijor, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.

Based on the latest report of the BAI’s National ASF Prevention and Control Program, at least 392 cities and municipalities were upgraded to pink or buffer zone from red or infected zone.

“At least 69 municipalities were upgraded to yellow or surveillance zone from pink or buffer zone,” the BAI said.

AGAP party-list Rep. Nicanor Briones said the hog industry has incurred at least P200 billion in losses due to ASF.

Briones is chairman of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Nonon Tambago, president of the Philippine Pork Producers Federation, criticized a move of the government to extend the lower tariff on imported pork until December.

Tambago said the extension would further erode the confidence of local swine farmers due to the slump in the farmgate prices of the commodity.

“Instead of focusing on lowering the tariff, it is crucial to address the gap between farmgate and retail prices as part of a long-term solution,” Tambago said.

He said it is important for economic managers to consider the real situation faced by local farmers, rather than favoring a few importers and traders.

MANILA, Philippines — Sustained military operations and the whole-of-nation approach toward ending the country’s insurgency problem have reportedly brought down the number of active Ne w People’s Army (NPA) guerrilla fronts to zero.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) boasted this accomplishment yesterday as it highlighted how it achieved its goals for 2023 while welcoming 2024 with a high public trust rating.

“As of December, there are no more active NPA guerrilla fronts. The continued focused military operations have neutralized high-value targets in the communist and local terrorist groups,” said Col. Xerxes Trinidad, chief of the AFP public affairs office.

Trinidad said the military again achieved a significant milestone by dismantling eight and weakening 14 NPA guerrilla fronts in 2023.

He said among the communist and terrorist leaders the military neutralized last year were Dionisio Macabalo, alias Muling or Kardo, who was secretary of the NPA’s North Central Mindanao Regional Committee, and Farahudin Pumbaya Pangalian, alias Abu Zacharia, said to be the emir of the Dawlah Islamiya-Philippines and Islamic State-East Asia.

“In 2023, the AFP was able to neutralize 1,399 members of communist and local terrorist groups. It seized 1,751 firearms through capture, confiscation, recovery or surrender,” Trinidad said.

As the insurgency problem nears its end, the AFP is shifting its focus to external defense operations.

“The AFP is focusing on awareness and security in the maritime domain. Throughout the year, the AFP conducted 28 rotation and reprovision operations and 820 maritime and air patrols in the West Philippine Sea,” Trinidad said.

The AFP cited its high satisfaction rating of +85 percent in a recent survey conducted by OCTA Research.

MANILA, Philippines — Up to 26,145 former combatants of secessionist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been decommissioned and are now living as civilians in communities, presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said yesterday.

A key component of the normalization program under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the decommissioning process involves laying down of arms and return of former combatants to mainstream society.

“These former MILF combatants are now fighting a different battle, and that is to improve their socioeconomic well-being,” Galvez said.

Meanwhile, the transformation program for the Moro National Liberation Front, which was launched in October, is expected to improve the life of and empower MNLF members as agents of peace and development.

“Our MNLF brothers and sisters are determined to help move forward the government’s peace agenda and walk the path of peace,” Galvez said.

He said the government is showing the MNLF that it is bent on fulfilling its commitments as provided under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

Galvez cited the progress made under the Bangsamoro peace process with the passage by the Bangsamoro Parliament of five of its seven priority codes, which aim to improve the socioeconomic condition of its people and boost the region’s economy.

He said crafting and passage of these codes indicated that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is growing stronger.

MANILA, Philippines — A foreign cargo vessel rescued two Filipino fishermen whose boat capsized in the waters off Agno, Pangasinan on Saturday, according to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Randy Arbollyenty, 30, and Mark Kimber, 37, both of Barangay Boboy, Agno, were rescued by the passing motor vessel Wadi Almalikat.

Arbollyenty and Kimber were fishing some 30 nautical miles off Agno when big waves battered their boat, M/B WS, causing it to capsize at around 2 a.m.

After five hours of staying afloat, Arbollyenty and Kimber were rescued by the Wadi Almalikat.

Coast guard and Navy personnel on board BRP Nestor Reinoso responded to assist the fishermen.

At 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, the Wadi Almalikat turned over Arbollenty and Kimber to the Navy and the PCG.

The fishermen were brought to the Sual Fish Port in Sual town, where they underwent medical checkup. Both were found to be in good physical condition.

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