The Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office No. 02 (DA RFO 02) and the United States-Defense Threat Reduction Agency (US-DTRA) inaugurated the first-ever anthrax laboratory in the country on January 8, 2021, in Tuguegarao City.

The said laboratory will form part of the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RADDL) of the Cagayan Valley Integrated Agricultural Laboratory, which will help in the fast and accurate animal disease diagnostic capabilities.

DA Undersecretary-designate for Livestock William C. Medrano, who represented DA Secretary William D. Dar, said that the laboratory aims to prevent the possible spread of said severe infectious disease.

Records show that anthrax incidences were recorded from 1999-2015 in Cagayan, Isabela, and Quirino. In 2010, Cagayan and Isabela documented 150 total human cases.

“The DA has been relentless in propagating biosecurity practices across regions and down to communities to reduce risk in handling domestic animals and their products,” Medrano added.

In 2016, the US-DTRA expressed its intent to provide grant assistance to improve DA diagnostic laboratories. US-DTRA explained that the project falls under two (2) agreements, namely, the Cooperative Threat Reduction Agreement (CTRA) and Philippines-USA Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation.

Morgan Haas, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agricultural Section representative, said that the defense funding would assure consumers and traders in delivering safe and reliable products.

“We are ensuring both security and livelihoods from an economic standpoint, all to improve consumer welfare. With that, I have to be here to support the handover, and again my role will look forward to additional ways of where we can partner again in the future,” Haas added.

DA RFO 02 Executive Director Narciso A. Edillo said the project stands as yet another example of what the Philippines and USA can achieve when each cooperates closely and forms a robust collaboration.

“Our region is now more able to identify, consolidate, and secure collections of anthrax-related biological agents and pathogens to prevent the sale, theft, diversion, or accidental release of such agents and pathogens. It raises the safety levels of anthrax-related diagnostic services, and strengthen effective anthrax-diagnostic reporting systems,” he added.

Major Brian Smith, Chief of US-DTRA, affirmed the strong partnership with the Philippine government in the years to come.

This laboratory will enable the early development of sound science-based policies that promote animal health which will pave way for the speedier coordination and implementation of good practices from borders down to the farms.