Military culls 70,000 chickens in Nueva Ecija town

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Some Nueva Ecija farmers were doubtful with the Agriculture Department (DA) findings that 7 percent or 28,000 chickens in the province have been infected. (FILE PHOTO)

Nueva Ecija (CNN Philippines, August 20) — More than a hundred soldiers were deployed Sunday to cull 70,000 chickens in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol confirmed on Friday new cases of bird flu in the Nueva Ecija towns of San Isidro and Jaen.

Read more: New bird flu cases confirmed in 2 Nueva Ecija towns

A 1-kilometer contained radius and a 7-kilometer controlled radius were established, similar to San Luis, Pampanga, where the outbreak of the H5 strain of avian influenza was first reported.

But some Nueva Ecija farmers were doubtful with the Agriculture Department (DA) findings that 7 percent or 28,000 chickens in the province have been infected.

Read more: Farm owners protest culling operations amid bird flu in Nueva Ecija

"'Yung sinasabi nila na libo, 200, hindi totoo yun. Yung namatay sa amin average lang isa, dalawa," said Manuel Ortiz-Luis, a farm owner who was reported to have infected poultry.

[Translation: They're saying a thousand, or 200 dead, that's not true. We have an average of about one to two chicken deaths.]

Ortiz-Luis said his birds reportedly tested positive for the strain, but he said authorities never showed him the results.

"Hanggang ngayon, wala pa ring dokumento, walang papeles. Tapos pati yung sinasabi nila na babayaran daw ng ₱80 per bird lahat nung papatayin. Ang gulo-gulo walang (process), ang hirap. Baka mamaya pag napatay na yung manok namin...saan kami pupunta?" he said.

[Translation:Up until now, there are no documents, no papers. Add to that what they said about paying ₱80 per culled bird. There's no process, it's a mess, and it's difficult. What if our chicken get killed? Where do we go after that?]

But the DA maintains its findings, saying farm samples reacted to the H5 strain present in the farm of Ortiz-Luis.

"Kami ay nakikisimpatiya sa may-ari ng manukan subalit ito po kasi 'yung protocol. 'Pag nakitaan ang farm ng virus, ang unang hakbang is to depopulate 'yung farm," said Dr. Eduardo Lapuz, the Regulatory Divison Chief of DA Region III.

[Translation: We sympathize with the owners of chicken farms but this is the protocol. If a virus is detected in the farm, the first step is to depopulate the farm.]

Businesses in nearby towns were also affected by the emergence of the strain in the province.

"Napakalaki ng lugi namin. Biruin niyo ₱25 per kilo ayaw pang mabili. Dati ang kumukuha sa'min 10,000 a day ngayon ang kinukuha 70 heads," said Rodolfo Juatco, a commercial chicken grower in San Leonardo, a town within the seven-kilometer radius of the infected farm in Nueva Ecija.

[Translation: We lose so much money. We sell at ₱25 per kilo, it still doesn't sell. Before, people get about 10,000 heads a day, but now it's just 70 heads of chicken.]

The DA said H5 - the virus strain found in birds in San Luis - is not transmissible to humans, although additional samples were sent to an Australian laboratory to determine if it is positive for H5N6, which can affect humans.