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Senate, DA to probe pork import âkickbacksâ
The looming probe by the Committee of the Whole will look into allegations that a certain “tongpats” system is operating within the DA, where officials are collecting around P5 to P7 per kilogram in kickbacks on imported pork.
Boy Santos, file

Senate, DA to probe pork import ‘kickbacks’

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 17, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is expected to convene as one committee to investigate Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s expose of an alleged P6-billion kickback scheme involving Department of Agriculture (DA) officials and importers.

The looming probe by the Committee of the Whole will look into allegations that a certain “tongpats” system is operating within the DA, where officials are collecting around P5 to P7 per kilogram in kickbacks on imported pork.

“Where are consciences of these people who, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, are exploiting the situation, taking advantage of the African swine fever (ASF),” Lacson said in Filipino and English during the Senate session.

The senators are aiming to hold at least the first hearing before Congress goes on a break on March 27.

For his part, Agriculture Secretary William Dar confirmed that the department would investigate allegations that a syndicate is earning kickbacks from pork imports.

In response, Malacañang said it would look into Lacson’s claims and gave assurance the President won’t allow any illegal disbursements of funds or any corruption in any government agency.

“We will see if that holds truth. I’m sure that the President will have that investigated. But what’s important now, no one can deny that supply shortage is the reason why pork prices are high,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said in Filipino and English.

Roque also added that the Palace has yet to act on the Senate’s motion to declare a state of emergency in Luzon due to the ASF outbreak because “the proposal has not reached Malacañang.”

Reject tariff cuts

Pork producers are urging President Duterte to reject proposals to reduce tariffs and increase the minimum access volume (MAV) of pork imports, fearing that it will kill the local swine industry and result in massive revenue losses.

In a letter to Duterte, the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines, Inc. (ProPork) rejected the DA proposal to reduce tariffs on pork imports to five percent and expand the MAV to 400,000 metric tons from 54,000 MT.

“Our local industry accepts that we are at a shortage because we had to kill our pigs due to the ASF spread. And we also accept the need for importation at this time, but we have to emphasize that 400,000 MT is too big, and giving importers a break with lower tariff has no positive outcome for the government, our local industry and even the consumers because pork is still sold at high prices,” ProPork said.

Apart from opposing the DA’s proposal, ProPork is also urging the President to provide funds needed for repopulation and indemnification. –  Christina Mendez, Catherine Talavera

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