WITH the Senate convening as Committee of the Whole tomorrow to discuss possible corruption in pork importation, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Sunday appealed anew for Malacañang to declare a state of calamity due to the African swine fever (ASF).
“For the sake of consumers, for the sake local farmers, for the sake of the local hog industry, please declare a state of calamity and provide the necessary funding para ma-address ang kalamidad (Alang-alang sa mga consumers, alang-alang sa mga Pilipinong magsasaka, alang-alang sa industriya ng pagbababoy, sana ay mag-declare na ng state of calamity para makapagbigay na ng pondo at matugunan ang kalamidad),” he said in a media interview.
Pangilinan said that the ASF caused the culling of millions of pigs, and the near-collapse of the hog industry, 70 percent of which consist of backyard hog-raisers.
“Nagawa na rin natin ito noong 1995 sa foot-and-mouth disease, at nung ako ay food security secretary noong 2014 sa cocolisap infestation. After six months bumaba from 57 hotspots to 1 hotspot pagkatapos ng state of calamity declaration,” he said.
“Pag nasolusyunan ang African swine fever, babalik ang sigla ng local hog industry, at OK rin tayong mga consumer dahil mas tiyak ang quality. Mas maganda ang sariwa at bagong katay kaysa imported na frozen na baboy (When we’ve solved ASF, the local hog industry will be revived and we consumers will be assured of quality. Fresh meat is better than frozen meat),” he added.
A declaration of a state of calamity will unlock billions of pesos in calamity funds that can be used to indemnify hog raisers who had to cull their pigs, to pay for temporarily under-worked hog raisers for work as biosafety officers, and other similar efforts to help revive the industry, Pangilinan said.
“Dagdag na kita ito sa kanila habang bumabangon ang industriya (This is additional revenue while the industry is recovering),” he said.
The former food security secretary said that while importation is a stop-gap measure for the insufficient pork supply due to ASF, massive pork importation is not the solution to the disease.
“Hindi tayo tutol sa importation dahil kulang nga ang supply ng baboy. Pero hindi yung sobra-sobra na papatayin mo pa ang industriya ng pagbababoy natin na dapang-dapa na rin (We are not against importation because there is shortage in pork. But not massive importation that will kill our local hog industry, which is also struggling to survive),” he said.
At the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on the possible ‘tong-pats’ in pork importation, Pangilinan said the following questions need to be answered: who applied for permits to import? What is their track record? Are they bogus or dummy? Are they part of a cartel or a syndicate?
He said billions of pesos are at stake and it’s not hard to imagine that some would be tempted to profit off the local hog industry’s woes.
“For sure, limpak-limpak na salapi umiikot. Sisiguraduhin nating hindi sinasamantala ang sitwasyon at ang ating mga local hog raisers,” he said.
Since the Department of Agriculture confirmed the first ASF outbreak started on July 2019, ASF outbreaks have been reported throughout the country. On March 17, DA reported that ASF has spread to 12 regions, 40 provinces, 466 cities and municipalities, and 2,425 communities in the Philippines to date, causing a loss of over 3 million pigs.