Duterte defends EO 128; insists order is just temporary

Maris Federez   •   April 20, 2021   •   292

 

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday gave his assurance that the executive order that he signed lowering the tariff on imported pork is just a temporary measure.

In his pre-recorded Talk to the Nation aired on Monday night, the President responded to the move of the Senate to recall Executive Order 128.

The president said that while he understands the senators’ move, his finance managers believe that their decision will help the businessmen who can import pork to bring down the price of pork and pork products.

“I can understand from where the senators come from, and there is also the domestic supply they intend to protect. And they are vehement about it. I think that they think that they are right,” the president said.

Duterte, however, said that as soon as the price of pork goes down, they can always recall the said order.

“Problem is yung mga managers ko, mga finance, I’d like to mention Secretary Dar, NEDA, and maybe Sonny Dominguez, are really in favor. Para sa kanila, the managers ng departamento ko believe that it would, in the end, tutal kung medyo malakas na yung domestic market and there is a movement, madali lang naman eh, we can always withdraw the EO that I signed,” he said.

“It’s just a temporary measure really to bring down the prices, but the senators see it in a different light,” he said.

The president insists that his order will contribute greatly to the benefit of the people.

“I’m sure that itong mga senador they have already their stand. I know that they’re insisting to it, while we — yung mga managers ng department ko — kami yung nag-iimplement, kami yung nagpapagalaw. We implement certain measures that could redound, we believe, to the benefit of the people,” the president further said.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar said that while the setting up of price ceiling from February to April has helped in bringing down the country’s inflation rate from 4.7 to 4.5, the tendency of some traders was to bring up the prices of the locally produced.

Dar added that the president’s EO was to address the insufficient supply of pork in the market.

“The range of 388,000 metric tons po ang kakulangan at ang demand po natin this year based sa 15 kilos per capita consumption ay nasa 1.6 million metric tons po ang demand. Kung titingnan natin ang supply ay nasa 1.2 million metric tons. So talagang may pagkukulang po tayo ng supply dito sa taon na ito. Gawa naman nagshrink, bumaba po yung ang local food production ng 25%,” he said.

He further said that the EO was not designed to bring down the hog industry.

“We are not killing the local hog industry. Ang inaangkat lang po natin, mahal ng pangulo ay yung kakulangan lang natin itong taon. So yung mga measures na pinapatupad po natin, through your approval, ay mapababa natin ang inflation kasi bababa talaga ang presyo sa merkado dito sa mga imported pork. So yung EO 128 was a result of painstaking process. And that’s why the lowering of tariff will really lower down the pork prices in the market,” he said.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua also stressed that the EO will help in lowering the country’s inflation rate to 3.8%.

NEDA forecasts that with the implementation of the EO, the price of pork will drop from more than P300 per kilo to P215 to P220 per kilo.

“We are in a COVID crisis right now. We cannot afford that the people will have both an income problem and a price problem,” Chua stressed.

With the explanations of DA and NEDA, the president hopes that the public will understand the economic managers in arriving at certain levels of decision to make it more responsive to the demand of the economic situation of the Philippines.

Duterte EO on lower pork import tariffs to be amended – Sotto

Robie de Guzman   •   May 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to allow more pork imports at lower tariffs for a temporary period will be amended after a compromise on the policy was reached, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Wednesday.

In a message to reporters, Sotto said senators and the administration’s economic managers have agreed to make adjustments on policies concerning pork importation to “strike a balance” between lowering inflation and ensuring the welfare of domestic hog industry.

“We had to strike a balance between accepting a formula in the reduction of inflation and the protection of the local swine industry,” he said.

Sotto did not elaborate on the amendments that both parties have agreed upon, saying he will let Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III make the announcement.

“I’ll let Sec. Dominguez announce the figures we accepted after a seesaw of discussion on both MAV and tariff,” he said.

The Executive Order 128 temporarily cuts the tariff rate on pork imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) quota to 5 percent, from the current rate of 30 percent, for the first three months upon the effectivity of the presidential directive. The reduced rate will go up to 10 percent for the next nine months thereafter.

It also increases the MAV quota for pork from 54,210 metric tons (MT) to 404,210 MT.

Dominguez earlier said that Duterte’s order was an “immediate and practicable” response to avoid price spikes.

Duterte also said in his order that the policy seeks to address the existing pork supply shortage, stabilize prices of pork meat, and minimize inflation rates.

But senators argued that this could potentially spell the demise of the local hog industry, and called on the president, through a resolution, to withdraw the order. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

DA starts vaccine trials for African Swine Fever

Marje Pelayo   •   April 29, 2021

African Swine Fever vaccine

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) has begun initial vaccine trials in areas previously affected by African Swine Fever (ASF).

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the trials commenced on April 23 with 10 commercial swine farms participating.

The project is in collaboration with a US vaccine company and Zoetis, a global animal health company.

Zoetis is the major collaborator of the experimental new vaccine for ASF which has prevented the virus from killing pigs in early trials in other countries.

The ASF vaccine trials will be conducted and monitored by the DA-BAI personnel and veterinarians for 84 days.

Such procedures are in line with the current protocols set by the government technical working group, the vaccine manufacturer and Zoetis Philippines, Inc.

The Agriculture chief said they are currently coordinating with the provincial veterinarians on the conduct of the vaccine trials to ensure successful implementation.

He assured that all BAI veterinarians underwent orientation and are ready for deployment.

The DA chief added that the trials in participating farms will depend on the agreement by the concerned parties, the availability of trial animals, schedule of the farm and BAI veterinarian and Zoetis representatives.

Secretary Dar is hopeful that the vaccine trials will yield positive results and finally eradicate the disease that has caused significant impact on the country’s hog industry and  loss of income for local hog raisers.

The disease also reduced hog population and supply which pushed pork prices up to the disadvantage of consumers.

“The vaccine trials complement our ongoing ‘Bantay ASF sa Barangay’ program. We consider it as the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ that would free us from this dark episode that adversely affected our swine industry, pork supply and prices,” Secretary Dar said.

“Once proven effective, the ASF vaccine will serve as a potent tool, complementing our joint efforts with the LGUs, private sector, and hog raisers to effectively control, contain and manage the spread of the ASF, thus paving way for the industry’s faster recovery,” he said.

DOF: Temporary reduction of pork import tariffs ‘immediate, practicable’ solution to check inflation

Robie de Guzman   •   April 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to allow more pork imports at lower tariffs for a temporary period is an “immediate and practicable” response to avoid price spikes, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Tuesday.

During the resumption of the Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry into the food crisis resulting from the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak, Dominguez said the measure was intended to protect Filipino consumers form price spirals that could further drive up inflation and undermine the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The DOF chief noted that the spike in meat prices this year has unduly jacked up food inflation, thus “exacerbating the problems of unemployment, hunger and reduced or lost incomes for many Filipinos” that have led people to rely on community pantries for aid.

Dominguez, a former agriculture secretary, said that although the presidential directive appears to be a painful solution as it would lead to a revenue loss of P13.68 billion for the government, this would actually slash pork prices to a level estimated to save Filipino consumers a whopping P67.38 billion.

“The worse we could do in a situation like the one we are facing today is to let supply issues force food prices up even more. If food prices rise, the inflation rate also increases. If the inflation rate rises, interest rate increases will follow. This unhealthy chain of events will make economic recovery even more difficult for all,” the finance chief told senators.

“The short-term and only practicable strategy for the current problem is contained in Executive Order 128,” he added.

EO 128 temporarily cuts the tariff rate on pork imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) quota to 5 percent, from the current rate of 30 percent, for the first three months upon the effectivity of the presidential directive. The reduced rate will go up to 10 percent for the next nine months thereafter.

It also increases the MAV quota for pork from 54,210 metric tons (MT) to 404,210 MT.

“Again, more than the economics of it, EO 128 is a response to protect our people from shortages and price spikes during this difficult time. We need to do it now for the sake of our countrymen,” Dominguez said.

He also explained that the increase in the MAV quota for pork factors in the estimated supply deficit for 2021 at up to 477,000 MT based on estimates by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“Thus, the temporary increase in pork imports will not ‘kill’ the local hog industry as feared by some quarters, given that imports would potentially account for only up to 22.8 percent of total consumption,” Dominguez said.

The Finance chief also emphasized that the decision to adjust pork import tariffs “was not done haphazardly, but underwent extensive deliberations and consultations among the public and concerned agencies, with all the tradeoffs considered in the cost-benefit analysis.”

“We are not giving up on the domestic pork industry. The interventions of the Department of Agriculture to help the industry are aggressive. They expect them to yield even greater benefits once a permanent solution to the ASF outbreak becomes available,” Dominguez said.

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