Lacson: Senate left with ‘no choice’ on reduced tariff rates, increased volume of pork imports

Published April 21, 2021, 2:20 PM

by Mario Casayuran

The Senate would have to wait for the resumption of congressional plenary sessions on May 17 to pass a resolution withdrawing the delegated authority to the President to increase the minimum access volume (MAV) and to decrease the tariff rates on imported pork.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson
(Joseph Vidal / Senate PRIB / FILE PHOTO)

This was the implied admission of Senator Panfilo Lacson when he said on Wednesday, April 21, that ‘’the Senate has no choice since the reduced tariff rates and the increased in-quota MAV have already taken effect.’’

Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar earlier told senators that the first shipment of the imported pork is expected to start arriving in June.

Congress, however, could not have acted on the policy since the recommendation of President Duterte to increase the MAV was submitted to Congress on March 26, the last day of its plenary session.

Meanwhile, the Executive Order No. 128, which lowers pork import duties to five to 20 percent, was signed while the Senate and the House of Representatives were in a Lenten recess.

Lacson said the President could not probably have issued EO 128 had there been an inter-departmental courtesy consultation since the order ‘’is a consequence of a delegated authority granted by Congress to the president anyway, we could have given our input based on our own consultations and research.’’

‘’For example, NEDA’s (National Economic Development Authority) conclusion that demand for pork has not changed in spite of the pandemic is flawed since as I had pointed out during the COW (Committee of the Whole) hearing, the 50 percent contraction registered by the hotel and restaurant operations should easily affect demand since at the pre-pandemic 8.2 million foreign tourists are now eating pork somewhere else outside the country,’’ he said.

‘’Thus, this means that at 15-kilogram pork consumption per capita as estimated would mean 120 million kilograms of less pork. That should be substantial enough to consider when they came up with the 350,000,000 kilograms in additional in-quota MAV allocation,’’ he added.

Duterte had said that once the domestic market becomes stronger, he could easily withdraw the EO since it’s just a temporary measure to bring down the prices. He also asked senators to give EO 128 a chance.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that with the support of 19 senators on the adopted Senate Committee of the Whole resolution calling for the recall of EO 128, he is ‘’confident” that the Senate will pass the joint resolution withdrawing the authority of the President to lower the pork import tariffs.