President Duterte may have been misinformed about the necessity to import pork, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Friday, April 16.
Sotto issued the statement as he continued to question the basis of the government’s decision to reduce the tariffs for imported pork products and to increase the minimum access volume (MAV) for pork imports for a year.
“Tinatanong ko nga sa kanila, sino sa inyo ‘yong genius na nagsabi sa Presidente na dapat ibaba ‘yang taripa at itaas ang minimum access volume (I even asked them, who among you was the genius who told the President that the tariff should be reduced and the MAV should be increased)?” he told radio DZBB, a day after leading the Senate Committee of the Whole’s inquiry on the country’s food crisis and the move to open up pork importation following the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak.
“Dapat ‘yan, kung ia-analyze ng Pangulo ito, titingnan niyang mabuti ito at ‘pag tiningnan niya at pinakinggan niya ang hearing namin, kahapon pa, binawi na niya yung EO na pinapirma sa kanya (If the President would analyze this, he would reconsider, and if listened to our hearing yesterday, he would have withdrawn the EO that he signed),” he added.
Senators thought that the Philippines no longer needs to import pork as they cited data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) showing that the country produces enough pork, even exceeding the demand of consumers.
On Thursday, the Senate Committee of the Whole adopted the resolution which sought to ask Duterte to recall his Executive Order No. 128, which lowers the import duties for pork products to five to 20 percent, from the current 30 to 40 percent.
They also urged the President to reconsider his recommendation to increase the MAV by 350,000 metric tons (MT), from the current limit of 54,210 MT to 404,210 MT.
Sotto said he also believes that Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar was “fooled” into defending the recommendation to open up pork importation.
“With due respect to Sec. Dar, sa tingin ko, napapaikutan siya (I think he is being fooled),” he said.
“Pwede ring misinformed siya. Katulad ng ginagawa nila sa Pangulo ngayon, misinformed ang Pangulo (He might have been misinformed. Like what they are doing to the President right now, the President is misinformed),” Sotto said.
Sotto maintained that the EO 128 should be withdrawn. Aside from this, he said the Senate Committee of the Whole would recommend to the President to order a thorough investigation of the DA, “especially [on] the issue of importation.”
If the President would refuse to heed the Senate’s call, Sotto said they would pursue the passage of a joint resolution that would override the EO.
“‘Pag hindi kami pinakinggan at binigyan na naman nila ng maling impormasyon ang Pangulo…pagdating ng session namin ng May 17, magpapasa kami ng Joint Resolution na binabawi namin ‘yong delegated power to the President. Kami ang nag delegate eh (If we are not heard and they again gave the President the wrong information, when our session resumes on May 17, we will pass a joint resolution to withdraw the delegated power to the President to modify the tariffs. Since Congress only delegated it to the President),” the Senate chief said.
He believed that Duterte will be convinced to revoke his order once he sees the issues uncovered by the Senate.