Duterte places PH under state of calamity due to ASF, raises MAV for pork imports in 2021

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 11) — President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire country under a state of calamity as it deals with the impact of the African Swine Fever outbreak, spokesman Harry Roque confirmed on Tuesday.

Nilagdaan kahapon May 10 ang Proclamation No. 1143 na nagdedeklara ng nasabing state of calamity sa buong bansa sa loob ng isang taon unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant,” said Roque during his regular press briefing.

[Translation: Signed yesterday, May 10, was Proclamation No. 1143 declaring a nationwide state of calamity for one year unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant.]

Senators have been calling for the declaration as early as March, as Filipinos deal with plummeting hog supply and rising pork prices.

In a separate briefing, Agriculture Department Spokesperson Noel Reyes emphasized how the declaration allows local governments to use their Quick Response Fund in efforts to mitigate the spread of the hog disease.

"Malaking bagay po ito. Hindi lamang po ang national agency, ang DA, ang gagastos kundi po ang local government units with this declaration of calamity," said Reyes.

[Translation: This is a major move. Not only will the national agency, the Department of Agriculture, be spending (to address ASF) but also local government units with this declaration of (state of) calamity.]

Roque also announced the President’s signing of Executive Order No. 133, which increases the minimum access volume (MAV) for pork imports to 254,210 metric tons for 2021 from the previous 54,210 MT.

Iyan po ay bahagi po ng kompromiso sa panig ng ehekutibo at Senado pagdating sa usaping MAV,” Roque said.

[Translation: This is part of the compromise between the executive and Senate regarding MAV issues.]

RELATED: Senate, DA agree on proposal to reduce MAV for pork imports at higher tariffs 

The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) welcomed these measures, calling them "another moral victory" for the local hog industry and the agriculture sector in general.

"Another slap in the face of pro-importation and anti-local producer Agriculture Secretary William Dar!" wrote the group.

SINAG likewise thanked the Senate for its efforts, and requested that legislators remain vigilant to ensure ASF-affected entities will be compensated and that realigned funds will indeed go to the industry's rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) noted Duterte's declaration "effectively freezes" proposed adjustments in their selling prices despite the three-fold jump in imported raw material costs.

"Nevertheless, we will need to tighten our belts further until we can get relief by the middle of this year just to help ensure that inflation will not rise any further," said PAMPI, noting meat products are major drivers of inflation.

With this, the organization says it is in the best interest not only of the industry but also of consumers and the economy in general to keep their product prices as stable for as long as possible.

PAMPI likewise said market forces will eventually decide if the new MAV for pork imports is enough to address the country's pork shortage.

"If there is still a shortfall after exhausting the MAV, out-quota importations at the reduced tariff of 20% for 3 months and 25% for 9 months should help stabilize the supply situation," it added.

While National Federation of Hog Farmers chairman and president Chester Tan appreciates the state of calamity declaration, he said he thinks it 'came a bit too late' particularly for ASF-affected commercial and backyard farms especially in North Luzon.

"[W]ithout (the) suggestion coming from Senator Kiko Pangilinan, (Agriculture) Sec. Dar will not even think about asking the President for this," commented Tan.

Similar to SINAG, the hog farmer group expressed hopes the funding will not be used in purchasing freezers or other steps that will only help swine importers.

Tan called for the proper usage of the concerned funds, particularly the indemnification of those affected by the outbreak and utilizing these in the implementation of the DA's Bantay ASF program especially on community biosecurity improvements and protocols.

CNN Philippines correspondent Melissa Lopez contributed to this report.