An official with the Philippines government said on Friday the country’s economy will take ten years to fully recover from the effects of the deadly Asian tiger mosquito virus that has killed nearly 400 people since last year.
Agriculture Undersecretary Dr. Juanfina Echandi-Ramon also blamed the mosquito-borne disease for slowing production of rice and disrupting trade in live animals, notably among poor rice farmers.
“The extent to which this will affect our economy is probably going to be (far) less than even the medical community would see because this is actually in a certain sense, not a lot of man-made structure is actually damaged,” Echandi-Ramon said.
“You really can only consider the condition of productivity, poverty, and disease from a health-wise perspective, there are so many other things to consider when you’re thinking about it.”
She said this is the result of gaps in response efforts, including “having a functioning laboratory,” many of which were damaged in the massive electrical blackout that hit Manila on Tuesday and raised questions about progress in tackling the mosquito, also known as Aedes aegypti.
The program has been extended and concentrated on fast-track mosquito eradication, including ground-based spraying, and other measures. It cost the government $16 million.
The virus has particularly affected the poor farmers and women living in the high-risk areas, Dr. Jimah Arellano, who heads a project to battle the disease in the provinces, said.
Live animals that are sold or fattened for sale need about a year to reach a ripe condition, and the bug-infested streets of Manila help curb their productivity, Arellano said. He said studies showed that though about 20 percent of the cows in the capital died because of the disease, most of the real monetary loss was in the value of the animals that were on the market, since local prices were below the market price for live animals.
Officials had hoped other strategies, including investing in agriculture research to boost the growth of such rice crops as bagoong, would benefit the farmers, especially women, who mostly cultivate rice. The cash crops account for about half of the Philippine gross domestic product.
The country is dependent on imports of rice, which would increase prices for consumers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.