Senate adopts resolution asking Duterte to revoke order slashing duties on imported pork

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 15) — Senators on Thursday adopted a resolution urging President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw his recent order that slashed the tariffs on pork imports.

The Senate Committee of the Whole backed the measure during their second hearing that sought to tackle issues on local pork supply due to the African Swine Fever outbreak.

Senate President Tito Sotto and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon initiated the process, with Sotto saying he was "not satisfied" with the reasons cited by the Department of Agriculture in requesting Malacañang to reduce the pork import duties to just 5-15% of the declared shipment value over the next three months that Duterte's Executive Order 128 mandated.

READ: Lawmakers seek to reverse EO lowering taxes on imported pork

This is coupled with a pending proposal to import an additional 350 million kilograms of frozen meat, supposedly to plug a 400 million kg supply deficit. Senator Francis Pangilinan said this translates to foregone revenues worth ₱11 billion to ₱14 billion. 

"Industry members and experts believe that the reduction of import duty and the increase in MAV will not necessarily translate to lower pork prices and that such policies will only result in loss of billions of government revenue and the flooding of the market with imported pork," the resolution read.

​Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said the agency is "alarmed" with surging meat inflation, insisting that the tariff and import volume adjustments will benefit 95 million consumers.

"The tariff rate for pork also needs to be low enough to help reduce and stabilize retail prices," Chua told lawmakers, saying that the goal is to bring back the old selling price of ₱224/kg.

Based on the DA's market monitoring on Thursday, kasim or pork shoulder sells for around ₱370/kg while liempo or pork belly sells for ₱380-₱420 a kilo in Metro Manila wet markets.

Lawmakers also stressed that setting tariff rates and import quotas is a function of Congress rather than of the Executive. Senators earlier questioned why Duterte signed the order while the chamber is on a break.

READ: Senators doubt imports surge can pull down pork prices

Prior to the passage of the EO, senators passed a resolution asking the President not to grant the DA's recommendations to protect local hog raisers.

"Our local hog raisers suffer a double blow –– a double whammy... Botcha ang dalawang polisiyang ito na gustong ipatupad ng Department of Agriculture [This policy of the Department of Agriculture will leave the industry double dead]," Drilon said.

Senators Pangilinan and Cynthia Villar also pointed out that there's no problem with additional imports as long as the traders pay tariffs at the original rate of 30% for in-quota shipments and 40% for all excess supply.

If the President will not heed the chamber's call, Drilon said he will propose a joint resolution that will fix the "appropriate" import duties and minimum access volume of pork to effectively replace the President's order. This may be done on May 17 or when plenary sessions resume, Drilon added.

Chester Tan, president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers, said the twin policies of the agency will delay the industry's recovery from the ASF outbreak. From an initial projection of 2 to 3 years, they will likely bounce back only after 5 years as markets are flooded with cheap imports rather than locally produced meat.

Other groups of hog raisers also raised concern about deficient border control and wide testing if pork shipments are tainted with ASF, as Tan warned that there's a new variant of the virus –– much like COVID-19 in humans.