MANILA - Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Tuesday rejected calls for his resignation, saying his agency has implemented several measures to address the soaring prices of pork products.
"That's not fair. We are having mixed interventions to handle this concern on food prices," he told ANC.
The Department of Agriculture has allotted some P500 million for lending to backyard hog raisers. A special financing window amounting to P27 billion is also offered to swine commercial raisers.
Dar also dismissed criticism he was slow in responding to the African swine fever that continues to ravage parts of the country.
"That's not true. When I came in August 2019, nandiyan na 'yong problema (the problem is already there). We continued to work with local government units every step of the way," he said.
As of December 2020, the country has culled at least 400,000 pigs since the outbreak started.
Dar blamed unscrupulous traders for jacking up the prices of pork products at the expense of consumers.
"Napatunayan natin (We have proven that) in our moving around and feedback from the field that the traders are the ones dictating... putting the farmgate price much, much higher than the real farmgate price," he said.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a price ceiling on pork and chicken products in Metro Manila amid rising cost in these food items.
Executive Order 124 sets a price cap of P270 per kilogram for kasim and pigue, P300 per kilogram for liempo, and P160 per kilogram for dressed chicken in the National Capital Region for 60 days.
Some meat vendors went on a "pork holiday" on Monday after Duterte capped the price for 2 months.
Asked when the government could possibly lift the price cap, Dar has this to say.
"If supply augmentation from other countries shall have arrived, and gradually available now, that will ease [and] lower effectively the prices," he said.