THE Senate on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution urging President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw Executive Order (EO) 128 that lowers the tariff on pork imports.
A total of 18 senators manifested their support for the resolution including Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, who reiterated the call for Malacañang to urgently declare a state of calamity due to the African swine fever (ASF).
“Declaring a state of calamity is important because we have to free up funds from the calamity fund to provide the necessary support. The Secretary of Agriculture has already said he needs 8.6 billion pesos for 2021 to address the swine fever and he only has 2.6 or 4 billion pesos. Kulang pa. Saan niya kukunin ‘yon?” Pangilinan said.
Malacañang issued Executive Order 128 lowering import tariffs for pork, potentially costing the government 11 billion pesos in tariff collections with the flood of pork imports severely impacting local pork production.
Contrary to the experience of the local hog industry, National Economic and Development Authority Acting Secretary Karl Chua told Thursday’s Senate hearing that the temporary increase in tariffs will not kill the local hog industry. However, he agreed that the current situation is more severe than the 2018 rice crisis.
“There is no such competitiveness enhancement fund for the hog industry,” Pangilinan said, noting that unlike the rice sector, the local hog industry is facing a calamity and losses of around 68 billion pesos due to ASF.
At the same time, Pangilinan said the local rice industry had the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund for cash assistance and support to rice farmers in anticipation of the entry of imported rice.
The former Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agriculture Modernization said that comparing the rice industry situation from 2018 to the current pork crisis is simplistic and is comparing apples to oranges.
“The rice sector then was not facing Covid. Today, you have the hog industry facing Covid. So all these seems to ignore the plight of the hog industry given all the challenges that it is facing,” Pangilinan said.
Local hog raisers echoed Pangilinan’s call to declare a state of calamity due to ASF.
Former Congressman Nicanor Briones, who is a local hog raiser, said: “Kaya po ‘yung state of calamity na hinihingi ng ating mga senador, ni Senator Kiko Pangilinan, napakaimportante po niyan. Kailangan po maglagay ng malaking pondo. Sa halip na ‘yung taripa ay makukuha dito sa importation at magagamit na pondo para mapigilan ang African swine fever, ay hindi po nangyari dahil inalis pa at ibinigay sa mga importer.
Briones is the current vice president of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines.
In March, the Senate adopted Pangilinan’s Senate Resolution 97 calling for the declaration of a state of calamity to free up funds needed to address ASF, as well as to oppose the reduction of the tariff rates and the lifting of the cap on imported pork products.
According to Agriculture Secretary William Dar, the Palace is already considering the declaration and is simply pending the recommendation from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
The new Senate Resolution also resolves to approve in plenary the appropriate Resolution for fixing the pork tariff rates and MAV if necessary.