Special mission: Army troops tapped to annihilate fowl within bird-flu danger radius

August 16, 2017 - 3:28 PM
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Pampanga bird flu poultry farm
Chickens at a poultry farm in Pampanga are readied for mass culling at the height of the bird flu outbreak. With no new cases detected as surveillance period ended Sunday (Sept. 3), DOH declared the country bird flu-free again. FILE NEWS5 VIDEO GRAB

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – About 100 Army troopers have been deployed for a different kind of war to bird-flu laden communities in San Luis town. Their mission: Annihilate fowl within the 100-kilometer radius quarantine areas.

“We have deployed an initial 100 soldiers from the 48th Infantry Battalion, stationed in Bulacan, to assist health and veterinarians in culling thousands of birds,” said Major General Angelito de Belen, Commanding General of the 7th Infantry Division on Wednesday.

De Belen said the soldiers have to undergo brief training on the proper handling of fowl before they are dispatched to undertake their task. “They must be capacitated first on the disposal protocol before they are exposed to a special tasking.”

He added that the military had coordinated with the local government and health officials for the soldiers “to be capacitated in terms of proper disposal and protocol.”

The number of troopers fielded to San Luis, De Belen said, was just an initial augmentation by the Armed Forces and aimed to expedite the culling of 200,000 heads of fowl, quails and ducks to prevent the spread of avian influenza virus.

“If the need arises, we are ready to dispatch additional troops,” said De Belen over the phone, adding that being soldiers, “this is part of our implied tasks.”

The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) earlier said that it will extend the culling operations for another week due to lack of manpower. “The culling is so laborious that it needs manpower to speed up the process.”

Dr. Arlene Vytiaco, BAI spokesperson, said the culling process is done through suffocation using carbon dioxide before the birds are buried in a dry land. Another option is to set the birds on fire.

“With that magnitude of birds to be buried, we might as well run out of space in San Luis,” a local folk told reporters.

De Belen stressed that soldiers are ready for any eventualities, whether involving security, disaster and calamities. “We are always ready.”

He said Army troopers are being deployed complete with a probation period, enough for the duration of their stay in the area. “Local government units need not worry about our soldiers.”