MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte urged senators to "give a chance" to his order lowering tariffs on imported pork in a bid to boost supply and bring down its prices, Malacañang said on Wednesday, following dissent from some lawmakers.
The Senate last week adopted a resolution that urged Duterte to withdraw his Executive Order 128, which senators said might cost the government P11 billion in tariff collections, while the flood of imports could severely impact local pork production.
Duterte "is asking the esteemed members of the Senate to give Executive Order No. 128 a chance and consider its intended effects, which include addressing the shortage in swine meat, stabilizing the price of pork meat, and minimizing inflation rate, as mentioned by the Department of Agriculture and the President’s Economic Team," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
"Let us revisit the EO in two months to assess whether the aforesaid intended effects have been realized/met," he said in a statement.
Duterte reduced pork import tariffs as the Philippines—the world's seventh biggest pork importer—sought to import some 400,000 tons of the meat this year to augment the shortage of supply due to African swine fever outbreaks.
EO 128 order cuts the tariff for pork imports during the first three months it is effective to 5 percent from 30 percent currently, and to 10 percent during months four to 12.
For pork imports outside the quota scheme, the tariff will drop to 15 percent during the first three months from 40 percent currently, and to 20 percent for the remainder of the 12-month period.
Reversing Duterte's order "is within the legislative power of our lawmakers," Roque earlier said.
WHAT SENATORS SAY
The Senate "has no choice since the reduced tariff rates and the increased in-quota MAV have already taken effect," said Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
"Kung meron lang sanang nangyaring inter-departmental courtesy consultation, since EO 128 is a consequence of a delegated authority granted by Congress to the president anyway, we could have given our input based on our own consultations and research," he told ABS-CBN News.
For example, he said NEDA’s conclusion that demand for pork has not changed despite the pandemic "is flawed" because "the 50-percent contraction registered by the hotel and restaurant operations should easily affect demand," he said.
He said he would support and co-author another resolution urging the President to withdraw the lower tariffs, "once it is taken up in plenary when we resume session in May."
Meanwhile, Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan has urged Malacañang to declare a state of calamity due to the African swine fever, which he said would "free up funds from the calamity fund to provide the necessary support."
"The Secretary of Agriculture has already said he needs 8.6 billion pesos for 2021 to address the swine fever, and he only has P2.6 or P4 billion. Kulang pa. Saan niya kukunin 'yon?" Pangilinan said.
(It's not enough. Where will he get that?)
Philippine pork production is estimated to have dropped 20 percent last year as the highly infectious African swine fever prompted the culling of more than 300,000 pigs, or about 3 percent of the hog population, based on government data.
Aside from increasing pork imports, the government is embarking on a massive pig repopulation program to boost domestic meat supply.
– With reports from Kat Domingo and Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters