Go cites huge impact of EO 123 in keeping tariffs low

Published January 18, 2021, 12:52 PM

by Mario Casayuran

President Duterte’s signing of Executive Order 123 has a huge impact on keeping prices low by keeping the tariffs low and preventing any inflationary effect, according to Senator Christopher “Bong” Go.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

The order modifies the rates of import duty on certain agricultural products under section 1611 of Republic Act No. 10863, the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

Go, chairman of the Senate Health and Demography Committee, said the President’s order will further maintain the reduced tariff rates on mechanically deboned meat (MDM) of chicken and turkey until next year as a way to help curb hunger and prevent prices of the said products from going up amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“This is most welcome and I support it,’’ Go, a former Special Assistant to President Duterte, said.

“Malaki ang maitutulong nito sa taumbayan, lalo na sa mga mahihirap nating kababayan sa gitna ng krisis na ating hinaharap. Maraming nawalan ng trabaho at kabuhayan. Maraming industriya ang nangangailangan ng tulong para makabangon. Gawin natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya para pagaanin ang pinapasan ng ating mga kababayan,” he added. (This is a big help to the people, particularly our poor countrymen suffering in the midst of the pandemic.  Many lost their jobs and livelihood. Many industries need help. We must do everything to help alleviate the hardship of our countrymen.)

Duterte temporarily reduced the tariff rates on the said products in 2017 from 30  percent -40 percent to five percent via Executive Order No. 23 (s. 2017) as a concession to trading partners for letting the country extend the quota on rice imports to protect Filipino farmers.

Under EO No. 23, the tariff rates will revert to their original Most Favored Nation (MFN) rates on July 1, 2020, or until such time that a law amending provisions on rice tariffication in Republic Act No. 8178 takes effect, whichever comes first.

Because of the signing of Republic Act 11203 in February, 2020, which lifts rice import quotas and imposing tariffs, the reduced tariff rates reverted to their original MFN rates.

Duterte, based on the recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), once again maintained the reduced tariff rates through EO No. 82 until December 31, 2020, to keep the inflation rate within target.

The recently signed EO 123 will, once more, retain the reduced tariff rate at five percent on MDM of chicken and turkey until December 31, 2022.

Go said the government must prioritize three important aspects towards recovery:  addressing hunger; acquiring sufficient, safe, and effective vaccines for all Filipinos with utmost priority to poor and vulnerable sectors as well as frontliners; and providing more economic opportunities through jobs and other forms of livelihood. 

Go emphasized that MDM is a major component of low-priced meat products commonly purchased by ordinary Filipinos. Keeping these affordable will help address hunger and mitigate poverty. 

“Kung mapapanatili natin ang mas mababang taripa sa mga produktong ito, maiiwasan ang pagtaas sa presyo ng mga pagkain na madalas binibili ng mga ordinaryong Pilipino,” he said. (If we can continue keeping tariffs low on these products, we will be able to prevent prices on food products that are usually bought by ordinary Filipinos from increasing.)

 In a November, 2020, survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), it was revealed that an estimated four million families reported involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months prior to the study.

The number, though, is lower than the previous data gathered by SWS in September where some 7.6 million reported involuntary hunger due to the pandemic. 

“Ginagawa po namin ang lahat para malampasan ang krisis na ito at makabangon tayo muli bilang isang nagkakaisa at mas matatag na bansa,” Go added. (We must do everything so that we would be able to surmount this crisis and help one another as one united and strong nation.)

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez also said that the EO was a recommendation of the Department of Trade and Industry and NEDA, together with other agencies in the NEDA Board Committee on Tariff and Related Matters, such as the Department of Budget and Management (DBM),  Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). 

Lopez said that this move will  keep the tariff rates on MDM to five percent instead of supposedly increasing to 40 percent this 2021.  

“If the tariff rates were not maintained at five percent, this can be costly to processed meat manufacturers, this can lead to unwanted price increases, and will surely lead to inflation of basic goods. These products are what the majority of consumers buy,” Lopez added.