Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Monday, April 19, that he hopes that President Duterte will heed the Senate’s call against the increased importation of pork into the Philippines.
During the government’s Laging Handa public briefing, Zubiri maintained that the administration’s decision to reduce import duties and increase the pork import volume will not solve the food crisis brought about by the African swine fever (ASF).
“Ito po ay isang band-aid solution at hindi po ito pang matagalan na solusyon, dahil kung nagpa-import po tayo nang nagpa-import, ang mamamatay dito ang ating mga magsasaka (This would only be a band-aid solution and only temporary, because if we keep on importing, we will kill our farmers),” he said as reiterated his position that the Department of Agriculture (DA) should focus on helping the repopulation of the local hog industry.
“Importation is not the answer to that. Importation will kill our local industries,” he said.
Last April 15, the Senate Committee of the Whole adopted the resolution asking Duterte to rescind his Executive Order (EO) 128, which lowered the duties for imported pork products.
Aside from issuing the EO, Duterte also supported the DA’s recommendation to increase the minimum volume access for pork imports by 350,000 metric tons.
Like Senate President Vicente Sotto III who believed that Duterte was “misinformed” about the issue, Zubiri said: “Feeling ko hindi po alam ng ating mahal na Pangulo ang epekto nito sa ating mga magsasaka lalo na sa hog raisers (I have a feeling that the President was not aware about the impacts of EO to our farmers, especially our hog raisers).”
The Senate majority leader warned that the country would suffer a great loss if the government allows the “collapse” of the local pork industry.
He cited, for instance, the plight of rice farmers after the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law in 2019. The law removed the quantitative restrictions for rice imports in exchange of tariffs, which critics said put local farmers at a disadvantage as cheaper, imported rice flooded the markets.
“Tignan po natin ang nangyari sa ating rice industry nong nagkaroon po tayo ng Rice Tariffication Law na pwede po tayong mga-import, ang kumita po ang importer, lumiit ang kita ng ating magsasaka (Look at what happened to our rice industry when we had the Rice Tariffcation Law which allowed more importation, importers were the ones who benefitted, while profits of our farmers declined),” Zubiri said, despite voting for the law’s passage in 2018.
“Kaya kailangan po natin hingin po ang tulong galing sa ating Pangulo na kung pwede, huwag muna ibaba ang taripa nitong imported pork (That is why we should ask help from our President that if possible, we should not reduce the tariffs of imported pork),” he added.
The Senate leadership would be willing to meet with Duterte to discuss their proposed reconsideration of the EO 128, Zubiri said.