Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Tuesday, May 11, expressed his support for President Duterte’s decision to issue Proclamation No. 1143 which declares a State of Calamity throughout the Philippines for a maximum of one year due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.
“With the declaration of a State of Calamity, mas madaling makapag-impose ng price ceiling kung kailangan at maiwasan ang overpricing ng pork products (it is easier to impose price ceilings when it is needed to prevent overpricing of pork products). Ang mga government financial institutions naman ay maaari rin magbigay ng no-interest loans sa mga producers na apektado ng ASF (Government financial institutions may also extend no-interest loans to producers affected by ASF),” he said.
“This is crucial because pwede na gamitin ng DA (Department of Agriculture) and LGUs (Local Government Units) can use yung Quick Response Fund (QRF) to address the ASF outbreak,” Go explained.
“Ang importante ay maiwasan na dumami pa ang pamilyang nagugutom lalo na ngayon na may pandemya tayong hinaharap (It is important that we prevent increases in the number of hungry families as we face a pandemic). Bilang Chair ng Senate Committee on Health, suportado natin ang layunin ng gobyerno na maproteksyunan ang ating mga kababayan mula sa sakit, gutom, hirap, at mga maaaring mangsamantala dyan (As chairman of the Senate health committee, we support government objectives of protecting our countrymen from diseases, hunger, poverty and from persons taking advantage of the situation),” he added while further emphasizing the need to protect Filipinos from poverty and rising prices.
The declaration of State of Calamity was made to supplement the DA’s measures to control the outbreak amidst the continuing spread of ASF in other areas of the country which affected the supply of pork meat.
Notably, the ASF has resulted in the reduction of the country’s swine population by about three million. The local hog sector suffered around P100 billion losses, which led to higher prices of pork.
Aside from the declaration of a state of calamity, President Duterte also issued EO No. 133 increasing the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) of pork meat by 200,000 metric tons (MT).
The MAV, which is currently at 54,210 MT, refers to the volume of a specific agricultural product that is allowed to be imported with a lower tariff.
The ASF outbreak has also resulted in a deficit of pork products, prompting the DA to recommend the increase of MAV. Intended as a temporary emergency measure, such increase is expected to address the supply deficit and stabilize retail prices of pork products. It aims to resolve the supply gap, provide Filipinos with adequate and affordable food during the pandemic, and contribute to lower inflation.
On April 15, the Senate Committee of the Whole adopted a resolution urging the President to, among others, recall the recommendation to increase the MAV of pork products, citing potential adverse effects on the local hog sector.
Eventually reconsidering their prior resolution due to the necessity of lowering prices of pork products, senators discussed with the economic managers from the Executive branch led by Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the need to determine the appropriate level of MAV.
In this regard, Go was instrumental in bridging the executive and legislative branches of the government to arrive at a mutually acceptable MAV quantity.
“Nag-meet halfway ang Senado at ang ating economic managers mula sa Ehekutibo (The Senate and economic managers of the Executive branch met halfway). Mahalaga ito dahil gusto nating mabigyan ng solusyon ang pagtaas ng presyo at kakulangan ng supply habang binabalanse rin ang interes ng local industries (This is important because we want to solve high prices and supply of pork while we strike a balance to protect the interest of the local industries),” he said.
“Sa anumang desisyon ng gobyerno, palagi pong binabalanse ng Pangulo ang lahat (President Duterte usually balances all issues). Sinisigurado niyang walang maaagrabyado habang patuloy na pinoproteksyunan ang buhay at kabuhayan ng ating mga kababayan (He wants to ensure that everybody is given a fair shake as he continues to protect the lives and livelihood of our countrymen),” he added.
Go also reiterated his appeal to Agriculture Secretary William Dar to exert maximum effort in assisting the local hog sector during the effectivity of EO 128 which provides for the temporary lowering of rates of import duty pork.
“As one of the foundations of our country’s food security initiative, our local hog raisers play a crucial role in stabilizing our economy and attaining food security,” he added.
Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan said it was good that Malacanang heard the Senate’s plea for the declaration of a State of Calamity made as far back as last February.
He said such a declaration allows the national government and local government units (LGUs) to use calamity funds in helping hog raisers badly hit by ASF.
Some P8 billion from the Calamity Fund could be used as additional help by the DA to hog raisers, he pointed out.