State of calamity declaration vs. ASF, a moral victory for hog industry

Published May 11, 2021, 2:17 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Malacañang has put the entire Philippines under a state of calamity amid the prevalence of African Swine Fever (ASF) nearly two months after the Senate proposed the move, a decision considered “a moral victory for local hog industry”.

Department of Agriculture (MANILA BULLETIN)
Department of Agriculture (MANILA BULLETIN)

“We thank the Senate for pushing for the declaration of the state of calamity and for working the reduction of the MAV [minimum access volume] allocation on pork. Again, another moral victory for the local hog industry and the agriculture sector in general,” said Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) Chair Rosendo So.

It was in March when the Department of Agriculture (DA), upon the recommendation of the Senate, submitted to Malacañang a draft proclamation that seeks to put the entire Philippines in a state of emergency due to ASF outbreaks, which have been pushing meat prices, especially pork, higher 

The Philippines was first hit by ASF in 2019 and as of January this year, the country’s total local swine inventory already dropped by 24.1 percent.

Backyard farms’ inventory, which accounts for 71 percent of hogs raised in the country, fell by 13.3 percent, while the population in commercial farms declined by 41.8 percent.

Due to ASF, the local hog industry has already suffered losses of around P68 billion, based on the estimates of Senator Francis Pangilinan.

To cut the losses of the industry using national funds, the entire Philippines will be in a state of calamity for a period of one year, unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant, based on Proclamation No. 1143. 

As part of this, all government agencies and local government units (LGUs) are enjoined to render full assistance to and cooperation with each other, and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate measures in a timely manner to curtail the further spread of ASF, address the supply deficit in pork products, reduce retail prices, and jumpstart the rehabilitation of the local hog industry.

At the same time, Malacañang also issued Executive Order 133, increasing the minimum access volume (MAV) allocation on pork imports to 54,000 MT to 254,000 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).

Moving forward, So requested the Senate to continue its vigilance by ensuring that those affected by ASF be compensated and the funds to be realigned will go to the rehabilitation of the industry and not spent on purchasing freezers for the importers.

“We continue to look forward with the Senate, which is now the de facto Department of Agriculture, as the very agency that is mandated to protect local agriculture opted to side with the importers and unscrupulous traders from the onset,” he said.

So also asked Agriculture Secretary William Dar to revoke all the import permits granted to importers using the original EO 128, which is the order reducing import tariff on pork.

The other day, Pangilinan said the declaration of a state of calamity would free up funds to address the problems caused by ASF as well as bankroll the much-needed biosafety protocols in areas affected by the dreaded virus.

The private sector, he cited, now laments that its members are spending funds from their own pockets just to ensure that ASF does not reach their regions.

Last week, DA said it will increase monitoring of pork imports coming into the country to prevent the entry of new ASF variants that have started to cause problems in the hog sector of China, the world’s largest pork-producing country.

The Philippines currently has an import ban against pork and poultry coming from China, but Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc. (ProPork) President Edwin Chen suspects that some of these products are still continuously entering the country through smuggling.

For his part, Dar said there is a “need double our efforts for our monitoring and surveillance much more on smuggled pork and pork products”.