Villar: Senate, Malacañang should seek compromise on pork import issue

Published April 27, 2021, 4:55 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Cynthia A. Villar on Tuesday, April 27, sought a Senate-Malacañang compromise on a controversial presidential order increasing a minimum access value (MAV) of and reducing tariff rates on pork imports.

Senator Cynthia Villar during the hybrid hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the government’s decision to open up the importation of pork amid the impacts of the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. (Senate of the Philippines)

‘’We shall meet halfway. We shall find a common ground that is not tilted on one side. We do it without sacrificing our farmers,’’ Villar, chairwoman of the Senate agriculture and food committee, said during a hybrid hearing by the Senate Committee of the Whole on high prices of pork brought about by African swine fever (ASF) that hit the Luzon swine industry.

The Senate wanted President Duterte to withdraw his Executive Order 128 reducing tariffs from the current 30 to 40 percent to a low of five to 10 percent.

It also wanted the President to withdraw his recommendation increasing the MAV on pork importation to 404,000 metric tons since the ‘’real deficit’’ is 150,000 metric tons.

The President had asked the Senate to give his order a chance to prove itself.

The order was submitted to the Senate last March 26, the day the Senate and the House of Representatives went on a Lenten recess.

Under the law, an order anchored on a power delegated by Congress to Malacañang becomes final if not acted upon by the Senate 15 days after its submission.

Senators asked whether the 15-day period means it becomes final during current Lenten recess or when the Senate resumes its Senate plenary session on May 17.

Having chaired the Senate agriculture committee since 2013, Villar said government must help the swine industry and their compromise must likewise address the pesky inflation issue.

‘’We should find a middle ground and move on,’’ she added.

Reacting, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that ‘’our minds are not closed….we want to achieve your goal….making sure there is a reasonable and affordable price for pork and other foodstuffs.’’

He said the inflation rate should not be damaging to the economy in the long run and ‘’definitely there is support to the pork industry.’’

‘’I try not to be stupid. I will definitely send proposals to move ahead on this issue,’’ he added.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar echoed the same position taken by Dominguez.

‘’Our minds are not closed. We all want to help the hog industry,’’ he added.