Members of the Senate are not pleased with President Duterte’s decision to lower the tariffs for imported pork products for a year to supposedly address the country’s lack in pork supply.
“The local hog raisers will be utterly disappointed not to mention the members of the Senate!” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a series of the messages to reporters Thursday, April 8.
“That is bad news!” he added.
The Senate, last March 15, adopted a resolution asking Duterte to reject the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) proposal to lower the tariffs and increasing the minimum access volume (MAV) for pork imports.
Duterte already approved the DA’s recommendation to increase the MAV from the 54,210 metric tons (MT) to 350,000 MT within this year.
On Wednesday, April 7, he signed another executive order modifying the import duty on pork products from the current in-quota tariff of 30 percent to five percent for the first three months and to 10 percent for fourth to 12th month of its effectivity.
Existing out-quota tariff would also be reduced from 40 percent to 15 percent in the first three months, and to 20 percent in the remaining nine months.
“The MAV could have been raised but not the lowering of tariff,” Sotto reiterated.
Hog raisers feared that with the increased MAV and lowered import duties, there would be an oversupply of pork that will eventually put local producers and distributors at a disadvantage.
Administration ally Senator Cynthia Villar, chairman of the Senate agriculture and food committee, said the move would kill the local swine industry.
“The reason they are giving for the lowering of taxes is not acceptable. There must be something else. That’s what we want to find out on Monday,” Sotto said.
The Sotto-led Senate Committee of the Whole will conduct a hearing on April 12 to investigate the food security crisis brought about by the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak, as well as Senator Panfilo Lacson’s expose on the alleged “tong-pats” or padded costs on imported pork.
Lacson earlier claimed that there is a padded cost of P5 to P7 per kilogram of pork that would go to the pockets of unscrupulous officials.