Senator Cynthia Villar on Monday criticized the Department of Agriculture (DA) for supposedly favoring importers in pushing to lower tariffs and increase the minimum access volume (MAV) allocation for pork imports.
At the continuation of the Senate agriculture committee hearing on the rising food prices, Villar questioned the supposed lack of consultation in the DA’s recommendations for encouraging the importation of pork.
“To be perfectly candid, it was quite alarming as instead of improving the economy, this move might kill the industry. Under the guise of protecting the consumer, DA, appears to incentivize importers, who, for sure have already earned a lot during the past few years they are in the industry,” the committee chairperson said as she asked DA officials to name those who were behind the recommendation.
The DA sought to reduce the tariffs for pork imports under the MAV from 30 percent to five percent for the first six months, and then 10 percent for the remaining months of the year. The agency also proposed the reduction of the current 40-percent tariff for out-quota imports.
It also proposed to raise the MAV from the current 54,210 metric tons to 404,210 metric tons to address the shortage in the supply of pork and bring down its price in the market.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar explained that this would only be a “temporary” measure, saying the relaxed pork importation will only be for a year.
Still, Villar found a year too long: “One year yan’ eh, one year. Pag dating ng one year, ginanyan mo ‘yang local farmer, patay na ‘yan in one year (That’s one year, one year. If you do that to local farmers for a year, they will end up dead after a year).”
The senator also noted that varying amounts being cited by the DA and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) about the cost of imported pork.
She said that according to the BOC, the cost of landed imported pork, including the tariff and all related expenses, is at P132 per kilogram. The DA, on the other hand, projected the landed cost at $3 per kilo.
“And your price control is P270 to P300 [per kilo], right? So at P132 per kilo, if the demand is high, you don’t have to bring down the tariff. They can afford…isn’t that enough for profit? You will allow them to earn more while you kill the local industry,” Villar said in mixed Filipino and English.
“Ano ka ba, kampi ka ba sa importer o local producers (What side are you on, the importers or local producers)?” she asked Dar.
Villar also questioned the composition of the MAV advisory council that recommended the reduced tariffs and increased MAV, saying majority of the members, by the nature of their businesses, would favor it. She said the DA should have consulted local producers first on how the proposal would affect them.
Hog raisers, she said, were not opposed to the importation but do not favor the lowered tariffs.
Last February 8, the government, upon the DA’s recommendation, imposed a 60-day price ceiling for pork and chicken products to arrest the continuous increase in the cost, which was blamed on the outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF).
Dar had also claimed that traders were also manipulating the prices of the commodities.
The price cap was set at P270 per kilo for pork kasim and pigue, P300 per kilo for pork liempo, and P160 per kilo for dressed chicken.