Recall of reduced pork tariffs after prices stabilize may be ‘too late’, senators say

Published April 20, 2021, 6:29 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

What good will the recall of lowered import tariffs be if the local hog industry is already dead?

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon posed this question on Tuesday, April 20,after President Duterte said he is open to withdrawing his executive order (EO) to temporarily reduce the tariffs of pork imports once local supply and prices are stable.

“Such withdrawal might be too late. The hog industry could be dead by the time the EO is withdrawn,” Drilon said in a text message.

“Aanhin mo pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo (What good is the grass if the horse is already dead)?” he pointed out.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto also said he hopes that prices will go down to the benefit of consumers, and not importers, especially those “favored” by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

“Well hopefully, prices come down to benefit consumers and not windfall profits to importers connected to the department of agriculture. And only temporarily. With regard to volume, [it] would have been best to increase MAV (minimum access volume) but not to reduce duties. That way, prices still go down, supply is increased and local hog industry is supported,” he said.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people working in the local hog industry will [lose] their livelihood,” he added.

Recto further said: “There will be better chances of prices going down if the DA would allow more importers to create competition rather than just a few favored importers from DA.”

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that while he understands that Duterte would prefer to listen to his economic advisers, “they should have at least made in consultations with the members of Congress since the authority to adjust tariff rates and increase the MAV are powers delegated to the chief executive by the legislature.”

Reiterating their concern, Sen. Joel Villanueva said that cutting the tariffs and increasing the volume of imported pork would result in flooded meat market, which would eventually undermine efforts to get the country’s pig farmers back on their feet following the outbreak of the African swine fever (ASF).

“Give our people imported pork, and we feed them for a day or even a month. But if we help our pig farmers back on their feet, they can feed us for a lifetime,” Villanueva said in a separate statement.

Last April 15, the Senate Committee of the Whole adopted a resolution urging the President to withdraw EO 128 on the temporary reduction of rates of import duty for pork products for a year.

Duterte’s decision on lower tariff rates came days after asking Congress to increase the MAV for pork imports this year by 350,000 metric tons.

Senators feared that implementing both policies at the same time would kill the local hog industry.

Drilon said that with 19 senators supporting the Committee of the Whole resolution, he is confident that the Senate would also pass the joint resolution that would revoke Duterte’s EO.

“I am confident that the Senate will pass the next Resolution which we will file when Congress resumes session on May 17 withdrawing the authority if the President under EO 128,” he said.

The lawmakers maintained that they are not convinced with the basis of the reduced tariffs and the DA’s insistence there is a shortage in local pork supply due to the ASF outbreak.