MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday said the Senate is "willing to negotiate" with Malacañang to convince President Rodrigo Duterte to recall his order on cutting tariffs and increasing the volume of imported pork.
Senators have been calling on Duterte to revoke his Executive Order No. 128 to save local hog raisers amid competition with foreign players during the pandemic.
"Willing na willing po kami makipag-negotiate sa Pangulo at i-apela po namin itong kaniyang executive order," Zubiri told state television PTV.
(We are very willing to negotiate with the President and appeal this executive order.)
"Sa tingin ko, 'pag nakita ng ating Pangulo itong buong picture ay mag-iiba po siguro ang kaniyang plano," he said.
(I think if the President sees the whole picture, he will change his plans.)
EO 128 reduces tariff on imported pork to 5-10 percent from 20-30 percent in the first 3 months of its enforcement, and to 10 percent in the 4th to 12th month.
The order also increases to 350,000 metric tons from 54,000 metric tons the total volume of pork that may be imported.
Duterte issued the order amid the spike in pork price as the local hog industry continued to suffer from the African Swine Fever outbreak, which has killed millions of pigs nationwide since 2019.
The Department of Agriculture earlier said that allowing more imported pork in the market would stabilize prices and slow inflation.
"Importation is not the answer to that. Importation will kill our local industries," Zubiri said.
At least 20 senators earlier passed a resolution urging Duterte to recall the order, saying it would also cost the government some P3.6 billion in tariffs.
Should Duterte fail to heed the Senate's call, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he would file another resolution when Congress resumes session next month to revoke the said executive order.
"If nothing is changed until May 17, then we take a more appropriate action to withdraw that delegated authority [to the President] of setting the tariff rates as far as the hog industry is concerned," Drilon earlier said.
"We will propose to the Senate as an institution that we withdraw the power of the president because of the harm it has done to the hog industry," he said.
At least 17 other lawmakers have also filed a similar resolution in the House of Representatives.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque had said that Duterte respects the call of some lawmakers to revoke the EO, adding it is within their power to make changes on it.
"In the event that our lawmakers decide to reverse EO No 128 lowering the tariff on imported pork, such action is within the legislative power of our lawmakers," Roque said in a statement last week.
"EO No 128 lowering the tariff of imported pork is only a delegated power given by Congress to the President to impose tariff rates, imports or exports pursuant to Sec. 28 par 2, Art VI of the Constitution. Hence, Congress may, by law, impose limitations on such delegated power or may reverse the same," he added.
Although Duterte can veto any particular item should Congress pass another bill on import tariffs, noted Roque.