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Senate urges national state of calamity declaration over ASF threat


The Senate is urging President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a state of calamity over the entire country amid the threat from the African swine fever (ASF).

During its session, the chamber adopted Senate Resolution 676 calling on the President to declare a state of calamity nationwide in light of the ASF problem.

The same resolution also expresses the chamber's opposition to the proposed reduction of the tariff rates and the increase in minimum access volume (MAV) of imported pork products.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, who authored the resolution, said the declaration of a state of calamity would allow the release of funds to indemnify hog-raisers who voluntarily culled their pigs to stop the spread of ASF.

Meanwhile, Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate agriculture panel, has consistently objected to the proposal to reduce the tariff rates and increase the MAV on imported pork products.

The MAV advisory council had endorsed to the Department of Agriculture to increase the MAV by 350,000 metric tons, from the current 54,210 metric tons to 404,210 metric tons to address the shortage of food supply.

A reduction of tariff for pork imports under the MAV scheme from 30% to 5% this year was also proposed.

Villar said tariffs help protect domestic industries and remedy trade distortion, and reducing them might "kill the industry."

Instead of lowering them, Villar said import tariffs should be collected and be used as a subsidy for local hog raisers.

‘Tongpats’ on imported pork

For his part, Senator Panfilo Lacson introduced an amendment to the resolution to investigate reports of unscrupulous individuals imposing "tongpats" or padded costs amounting to P5 to P7 per kilo of imported pork.

Lacson said that padded costs may significantly increase if the tariffs on pork imports are reduced and the MAV allocation is increased.

"Kung may [padded cost] na P5 to P7 per kilo, logical na tataas din ang tongpats kasi tataas ang profit," he said during his interpellation on the resolution.

("If there is a padded cost of P5 to P7 per kilo, it's logical to say that the padded cost will further increase because the profit will increase.")

"If simultaneously with the reduction of tariffs iaakyat ang volume from 54,000 metric tons to something like 400,000 metric tons, bukod sa malaki ang magiging foregone revenues, on the other hand the resultant effect is a tremendous increase in [padded cost]," he added.

("If simultaneously with the reduction of tariffs the MAV will be increased from 54,000 metric tons to something like 400,000 metric tons, aside from having higher foregone revenues, the resultant effect, on the other hand, is a tremendous increase in padded cost.")

As an amendment to the resolution, Lacson urged the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the alleged "tongpats" scheme on pork imports in the proposed reduction of tariffs and increase in MAV allocation.

Duterte earlier issued an executive order imposing a price cap on pork products as requested by the DA due to soaring pork prices caused by the ASF problem and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the executive order, the price cap for kasim and pigue was set at P270 per kilo, P300 for liempo, and P160 for dressed chicken per kilo. The price cap will last for 60 days.

This led to several market vendors going on a "pork holiday” due to fears of going bankrupt amid the price caps.  — DVM, GMA News

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