MANILA - An agricultural group on Friday urged the government to vaccinate around 11 million farmers against COVID-19 using funds from its collection of deboned meat tariff.
The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) said during the Laging Handa press briefing on Friday that the government can source around P5.48 billion for vaccines if they bring back the original tariff of mechanically deboned meats (MDM).
SINAG earlier asked President Rodrigo Duterte in a letter on Jan. 11 to revert the tariff on MDMs to 40 percent from 5 percent, with the lapse of the quantitative restriction (QR) privileges and enactment of the Rice Tariffication Law.
"Dahil itong sektor ng agrikultura ay masasabi nating frontliner din. Ang working force nito is around 11 million na tao at itong ganun kadami is makakatulong ito dahil 'yung food security natin, ito 'yung mga nagpo-produce," SINAG Chairman Rosendo So said.
(The agricultural workers are also frontliners. The 11 million farmers produce our food, giving us food security.)
He also said the tariff increase will hardly affect the price of canned meat products.
“Sa isang 150 grams na delata, 20 percent lang ng MDM ang inclusion rate niya. So ang total na increase, hindi makakaapekto sa presyo ng delata. Sa P7.20 pesos na presyo ng 150 grams na delata, ang increase lang is 52 centavos. 'Yung 52 centavos na 'yan, makakatulong naman sa 11 million na Pilipino,” he added.
(For every 150 grams of a canned product, the inclusion rate is just 20 percent of the MDM. So the total increase won't affect the price of the canned product. For a 150-gram product that costs P7.20, the increase is just 52 cents. That 52 cents can help 11 million Filipinos.)
Jess Cham, president of the Meat Importers and Traders Association, said it does not make sense to source vaccine funds from the MDM but should come from elsewhere.
“If they want to benefit the agri workers, baka puwede nila kunin sa (they could source from) Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund wherein they collect import duty from in-quota importation of chicken and pork, kasi totally related naman itong issue na ito (because they are related)," Cham said.
"Kasi 'pag ganito ang mangyayari nito (if this happens), if you look for a source of funding then you look anywhere. Kunin mo na lang dito, kunin mo na lang diyan,” he added.
(It should not be that we get the funds anywhere we like.)
Farmers should be prioritized in vaccinations, but it is up to the program of the national government, Cham said.
“Everybody has equal rights to be vaccinated if they want to. The frontliners, health workers, they should get priority. The vulnerable should get priority, but the agriculture workers and white-collar workers and urban dwellers, they are on the same boat. Why should anyone get priority?” he added.
The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc declined to give a comment as they are not aware of SINAG’s request yet, said its Vice President Jerome Ong.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar, meanwhile, said they will study the proposal.
The Department of Health earlier determined agricultural farmers as "essential workers", and are placed 8th in the vaccine priority list.