After weeks of disagreement on pork imports, the Senate and the President’s economic team, led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, decided to lower the import tariff cut proposed under Executive Order (EO) 128 and adjust the volume of pork imports allowed to enter the Philippines under minimum access volume (MAV).
Such a compromise between the two parties will just have to be approved by President Rodrigo Duterte. Agriculture Secretary William Dar will submit the revised pork import tariffs to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, through Secretary Karl Chua. The NEDA Board will then make the final recommendation to the Office of the President.
On Wednesday, the Senate accepted the economic team’s recommendation that the MAV be reduced from 404,000 metric tons (MT) to 254,210 MT.
MAV refers to the volume of a specific agricultural product that is allowed to be imported with a lower tariff as committed by the Philippines to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Moreover, the Senate also accepted that the tariff under EO 128 be modified to a lower rate.
Under MAV, the tariff will now be adjusted from the current 30 percent to 10 percent, instead of the original proposal of 5 percent, for the first three months of the EO 128’s implementation. This will be adjusted to 15 percent, instead of 10 percent, in the remaining nine months of EO’s validity.
For out-quota, the tariff will be reduced from the current 40 percent to only 20 percent, instead of the original proposal of 15 percent, for the first three months of the tariff cut implementation. Then it will be increased to 25 percent, instead of 20 percent, in the next remaining nine months.
It was the DA that made these two proposals – to increase the MAV allocation on pork as well as bring down the tariff on pork imports – in hopes that bringing in more imported pork into the country will bring down the retail price of the commodity, which has been going up due to the tightness of hogs supply, a lingering impact of African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.
However, the Senate backed local hog raisers when they raised concerns about the said orders, which they think will cause further damage in the local hog industry and will not necessarily address the rising prices.
The economic team had to meet with Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III four times (on April 28, April 30, May 3, and May 4) to discuss a middle ground.
For his part, Dar insisted that this is “an urgent short-term measure.”
“We are still aggressively taking steps to help the domestic industry recover from ASF. These include the ‘Bantay ASF sa Barangay’ and its twin hog repopulation program. The Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines are setting aside P30 billion and P12 billion, respectively, to lend to commercial swine raisers,” Dar said.
“But these long-term measures take time. We need an immediate strategy to temper the current high pork price situation,” he added.
“We appreciate the quick resolution of this issue. A problem of this scale, especially when incomes and job opportunities have declined, needs immediate and urgent action,” Dar further said.
Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) Chair Rosendo So said “this is a moral victory for the local hog industry and a slap in the face of the pro-importation and anti-local hog raiser Secretary of Agriculture”.
He then demanded the DA to revoke all the import permits granted to importers using the original EO 128.
“The Bureau of Customs must be alerted immediately on this compromise and be guided on the tariffs that should be collected once these imports arrive,” he added.
The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI), on the other hand, said their members are also pleased with the “rational solution” that the government came up with to address this “controversy”.
The group also urged Duterte to issue the amendatory executive order as soon as possib