Lacson: Senate has no choice but to give order on pork import tariffs a chance

Robie de Guzman   •   April 21, 2021   •   261

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said that the Senate has no choice but to give a chance to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 128, which mandates the temporary increase of pork importations at lower tariff rates.

“First, the Senate has no choice since the reduced tariff rates and the increased in-quota MAV [minimum access volume] have already taken effect,” Lacson said in a statement.

Lacson issued the statement after Duterte asked senators to consider his order’s intended effects, which include addressing the shortage in swine meat, stabilizing the price of pork meat, and minimizing the inflation rate, as mentioned by the Department of Agriculture and the President’s Economic Team.

The senator also lamented the lack of inter-departmental consultation regarding the move to reduce tariff rates on pork importation.

“Kung meron lang sanang nangyaring inter-departmental courtesy consultation, since EO 128 is a consequence of a delegated authority granted by Congress to the President anyway, we could have given our input based on our own consultations and research,” he said.

Lacson reiterated that the National Economic Development Authority’s (NEDA) conclusion that demand for pork has not changed in spite of the pandemic is “flawed.”

“I had pointed out during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing, the 50% contraction registered by the hotel and restaurant operations should easily affect demand since the pre-pandemic 8.2 million foreign tourists are now eating pork somewhere else outside the country,” he said.

“Thus, at 15 kilograms of pork consumption per capita as estimated would mean 120 million kilograms less pork. That should be substantial enough to consider when they came up with the 350,000,000 kilograms in additional in-quota MAV allocation,” he added.

Lacson said Duterte’s appeal “might as well be directed” toward the 80,000 backyard hog raisers, their families, farmhands, and all others now being affected by the EO, both directly and indirectly.

Duterte made the appeal after the Senate Committee of the Whole adopted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Executive Order 128, which mandates that the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume (MAV) be reduced to 5 percent during the first three months upon the order’s effectivity, and to 10 percent in during the months four to 12.

For pork imports outside the quota, the order cuts the tariff to 15 percent during the first three months upon its effectivity, and 20 percent for the months four to 12.

The order also increases to 350,000 metric tons from 54,000 metric tons of the total volume of pork that may be imported to the Philippines.

Malacañang earlier urged senators to “revisit the EO in two months to assess whether the aforesaid intended effects have been realized/met.”

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)

Lacson seeks review of PH-China ties amid West Philippine Sea issue

Robie de Guzman   •   May 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson is pushing for a review of the diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China in the wake of China’s recent incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, Lacson stressed that a review of the diplomatic relations between the two countries is “timely and called for” following reports on China’s continued activities in the Philippine territorial waters despite the diplomatic protests filed by the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“What kind of friend – or benefactor – would take what is ours, bully us, and ignore our protests?” said Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense.

“Maybe a review of the country’s diplomatic relations is timely and called for. All the diplomatic protests that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs filed have been ignored as if nothing was filed at all. The continued incursions and bullying finally got his goat. The Senate must support him in this regard,” he added.

In pushing for a review of Philippine-China diplomatic ties, Lacson pointed out the Philippines must become “innovative and creative” in approaching the issue as diplomatic protests no longer seem effective.

“There are so many possibilities to explore,” he said.

On the other hand, Lacson said the review should go hand in hand with seeking stronger alliances with the more militarily powerful countries like the United States, Australia, even Japan and some European Union countries to maintain the balance of power in the region as he pointed out China has already made at least three incursions into Philippines EEZ – Scarborough Shoal, Panatag Shoal, and now Julian Felipe Reef.

Lacson said Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon, the principal author and sponsor of a recently filed Senate resolution on the WPS issue, has accepted his proposed amendments.

His first proposed amendment to the resolution is changing the word “condemning” to “strongly objecting.”

“To condemn means some sort of eternal divine punishment. Hence, no matter how unlikely, in case China eases up on its aggressive stance, our condemnation cannot be taken back,” he said.

His second proposed amendment was to “urge the Department of Foreign Affairs to consider a review of the long existing diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China in order to send a clear message that the incursions into our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in utter disregard of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the rule of law is totally unacceptable.”

The senator also reiterated that the issue on the West Philippine Sea should not be connected with other issues, including vaccine donations.

“We should have a united stand on the West Philippine Sea, and this should not be connected to any other issue except sovereignty and territorial integrity,” 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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