MANILA - The Philippines may lose at least P3.6 billion in potential revenue should the government proceed with its plan to reduce imported pork tariffs this year, a senator said Monday as the Senate began reviewing the policy that would allegedly hit local hog raisers.
President Rodrugo Duterte earlier signed an order reducing imported pork tariffs to 5 percent from 30 percent until mid-2021, and between 10 and 20 percent in the succeeding months.
The Philippines earns some P6.1 billion annually from tariffs on imported pork, but this would be reduced to P2.5 billion due to the reduced tariffs, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing.
"I could not think of anything more cruel than beating to death someone who is already dying," he said, noting that local hog raisers who have been bankrupt due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) would now have to compete with imported meat producers.
"Such inconsiderate course of action has far reaching implication on our country's food security," he said.
Lacson also slammed Malacañang's order to adjust the allowable volume of imported pork to 400,000 metric tons, saying only Congress has the power to change it.
"Is it not absurd that the policy which will flood our market with imported pork will not be a product of deliberations of the 2 houses of Congress but a result of devious machinations of those who want to trespass and usurp the power to legislate?" he said.
"Records na mismo ng gobyerno ang mismong nagsasabi na sobra-sobra nga ang lokal na produksyon ng baboy ng 403 million kilos upang matugunan ang pangangailangan ng bansa," he said, citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
But Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that the Philippines is projected to have a 388,563 million metric ton pork deficit this year as supply is at 1.22 million metric tons, while the demand is at 1.6 million.
"We need to fill in the supply gap, stabilize pork prices and tame the upward inflation," Dar told senators.
The executive order ordering the lowering of tariff for imported pork "went through a very rigorous process" before it was submitted for the President's signature, he said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Department of Agriculture (DA) "should also consider its consequential ill effects to the already long-standing problems in the country like high cost of importation, potential revenue loss, undue competition as well as the possibility of oversupply if left unrestricted."
The Senate is expected to hold a series of hearings on the issue this month as senators press the DA to either withdraw the tariff curt order or provide more assistance to local hog farmers nationwide.