EO on pork tariffs to be amended â Sotto
Frozen meat products are seen inside the chiller at Commonwealth market in Quezon city on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, file

EO on pork tariffs to be amended — Sotto

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 6, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is expected to issue a new executive order amending the much-criticized one that drastically lowered pork tariffs, following low-key negotiations between the Senate and Malacañang.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he is leaving it up to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to announce the revised tariff rates as well as the revised minimum access volume (MAV) level for pork that Malacañang had raised to 400,000 metric tons, or four times the quantity the local hog industry and other experts said the country actually needs.

“We had to strike a balance between accepting a formula in the reduction of inflation and the protection of the local swine industry,” Sotto told reporters yesterday in a text message.

“EO 128 will be amended,” he said.

He said senators accepted the new import duty rates and MAV level after “a seesaw of discussions.”

The Senate committee of the whole – where all senators are members – wrapped up last April 27 its investigation into alleged multibillion-peso corruption at the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Customs in pork imports as well as the DA’s mishandling of African swine fever infections that reportedly inflicted over P60 billion in losses to the local hog industry.

Senators and hog raisers strongly opposed the reduction in tariffs as it will only profit traders and importers already making a killing under the original rates with some technical or outright smuggling.

The local hog raisers also stressed they are not against importing pork but the MAV should be raised only to 100,000 MT as the shortage is only experienced in Luzon. The flood of cheap imports will inevitably spread to the Visayas and Mindanao and hurt swine producers there, they warned.

Senators also cited documents where DA experts recommended the MAV – previously at only 54,000 MT – not be raised or only to 100,000 MT, if at all.

Under the EO, the tariff on pork imports under MAV quota is reduced to five percent for the first three months of the order’s validity and to 10 percent for the fourth to 12th month.

For imports outside the MAV, the duty is reduced to 15 percent on the first three months and 20 percent for the fourth to 12th month of EO’s effectivity.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he was personally not happy with the new rates and MAV level based on the data that the hog industry and senators have. Lacson and Sen. Cynthia Villar earlier pointed out only four to 10 traders corner the country’s pork imports.

“I am not satisfied but for practical reasons, that is the best that we (and the hog raisers) can get. For one, the compromise is far from Solomonic. Also, there are two legal issues involved that have to be resolved as well,” Lacson told reporters.

One legal issue the senator was apparently referring to was the recommendation of Duterte raising the MAV to 400,000 MT that was sent to Congress last March 27 when the Senate and the House of Representatives were on a break.

Under the law, the President can only change tariffs when Congress is not in session, and changes in MAV are deemed automatically implemented if lawmakers fail to act on the recommendation 15 days after receipt of the proposal.

Meanwhile, the militant Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the DA should strengthen local food producers in the form of a production subsidy to ensure stable supply of agricultural and fishery products in the country. – Rhodina Villanueva

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