The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) should put a premium on the Philippines’ livestock industry if it sincerely wants to achieve food security, senators said on Thursday, April 15.
At the Senate Committee of the Whole’s hearing on the food security crisis brought about by the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara warned that the country’s attempt to achieve food security will fail if it continues to render the country’s livestock industry uncompetitive and depend on the produce of other countries.
“The government needs to be more intelligent and discriminating on its investment and where to spends its resources,” Angara told DA and NEDA officials during the Senate hearing.
“Is it a good investment, for instance, to spend more on freezers so you can import some more pork? I don’t think that’s a good investment of your money,” he pointed out.
“So, we really have to put this at the top of our agenda to build a robust industry because we will never achieve food security if we are dependent on foreign producers,” Angara added.
Sen. Grace Poe, meanwhile, expressed doubts on the NEDA and DA officials’ assumption that 95 million, out of 110 million, will benefit from the pork tariff cuts imposed under President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 128.
“How can 95 million benefit from pork tariff cuts when people cannot even afford to eat?” Poe pointed out.
“Ibig ba nilang sabihin, 15 million lang ang hindi na nakakayanang bumili ng pork? Ang totoo niyan, mas marami pa ang nagdidildil na lang sa asin kasi hindi na nga makabili ng isda—pork pa kaya (Do they mean that only 15 million people no longer can afford to buy pork? The reality is more people now choose to settle for salt because they can no longer afford to buy fish—what more pork?” she stressed.
Angara and Poe are among the co-authors of a Senate resolution urging the President to withdraw EO 128, which lowers the tariff on pork imports and recommended the increase in the so-called minimum access volume (MAV) by 350,000 metric tons (MT) from 54,000 MT.
Senators and industry members and experts believe the EO will not necessarily translate to lower prices.
“Hindi natin alam talaga kung saan nanggagaling itong tariff sa pork. Ewan kung pinag-aaralan talaga nila yung datos (We don’t even know where the pork tariff comes from. I don’t think they have been studying the data thoroughly),” Poe said.
Poe said support for the agriculture sector is imperative and for the hog industry, they urgently need protection.
For one, she said the DA should invest in testing equipment to detect disease in imports and help authorities prevent their entry instead of spending the P45-million budget for freezers for the imported pork.
“This is a growth potential if the private sector already had the capability to fulfill our needs for pork and potentially, to export, if not for the ASF,” Poe said.