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DA strengthening laboratory network to fight animal, plant diseases

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said Wednesday it is strengthening its laboratory network system to boost its fight against infectious diseases such as African Swine Fever (ASF) in hogs, avian influenza (AI) in poultry, foot and mouth disease (FMD) in livestock, panama disease in banana, and fall armyworm  (FAW) in corn and onion, among others.

"We are adopting an integrated 'OneDA' laboratory master plan that incorporates international bio-risk management standards and best practices on biosafety and biosecurity measures, regulations, and certifications," Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

The DA said the “OneDA” masterplan was proposed by the Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Engineering (BAFE) after consultations with concerned DA national laboratories, bureaus, and regional field offices (RFOs), through the assistance of the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Dar said the plan will help prime the country’s national and regional laboratory services to tighten biosafety and biosecurity measures against plant and animal diseases, including smuggling

“This comes at an opportune time when we are elevating our concerted response against the ASF with the vigorous implementation of 'Bantay ASF sa Barangay' (BABay ASF) Program, that actively involves local government units (LGUs), the private sector and veterinary groups in disease detection, control, and prevention, and subsequent hog repopulation. With these laboratories, we are confident that we will win this time around,” he added.

The plan calls for the formulation of policies and approaches to either construct new ones or upgrade existing national laboratories of the DA's Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), and Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), according to the DA.

The plan also includes the integrated laboratories of the DA-RFOs such as the regional animal disease diagnostic laboratory (RADDL), feed chemical analysis laboratory (FCAL), regional crop protection center (RCPC), and regional soils laboratory (RSL).

The plan further outlines key steps for making local laboratories compliant with international bio-risk management standards and best practices, such as provision and review of plans, design requirements, standards, and technical specifications, the DA said.

The BAI will provide technical guidance on the planning and programming of all RADDLs and FCALs, while the DA-BPI on RCPCs, and the DA-BSWM on RSLs.

The plan also serves as the basis for the construction and renovation of DA laboratories, incorporating standards set under the respective national building, electrical, "green building," and sanitation codes, according to the DA.

"With these integrated 'OneDA' laboratories and 'Bantay ASF ' program, we are confident that we can successfully manage, prevent and control ASF, and hopefully put an end to the most dreaded disease that has paralyzed the country’s billion-peso hog industry for more than a year now, and continues to threaten its demise,” Dar said. -MDM, GMA News