Senate may pass COVID-19 vaccine indemnification bill next week — Zubiri

Robie de Guzman   •   February 17, 2021   •   300

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate may approve next week a bill that seeks to establish a P500-million national indemnity fund that will be used to compensate any inoculated person who might experience a severe adverse effect, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Wednesday.

During the Laging Handa briefing, Zubiri said the measure may be ratified on Monday if Malacañang will issue a certification of urgency to expedite its passage.

“Hopefully, we can ratify this by Monday next week, ibibigay po namin ito sa Malacañang for the signature of the president. Hopefully, by the end of the month, maging batas na ito kung pirmahan agad ni president,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier expressed readiness to certify as urgent the passage of bills creating an indemnification agreement and advance market commitment to speed up COVID-19 negotiations and deliveries.

An indemnification clause refers to the agreement reached between stakeholders identifying the party that would take responsibility in case those receiving the jabs experienced adverse side effects.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said he has been communicating with lawmakers to fast-track the pending bills.

“Para po magkaroon ng proteksyon ang ating DOH personnel and at the same time yung manufacturer from any possible law suit considering that yung pagpunta ng vaccine dito ay under clinical trial number 3 o tinatawag nating emergency use authorization only,” he said.

Zubiri said the Senate was supposed to pass Senate Bill 2057 on second reading on Tuesday but it was deferred due to the absence of resource persons who could provide answers regarding the matter.

The measure proposes to authorize the Department of Health and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 to undertake negotiated procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as necessary supplies and services related to the immunization program by allowing local government units (LGUs) and private entities to directly procure COVID-19 vaccines with their own funds, provided that they do so within a tripartite mechanism with the DOH and the NTF-COVID-19.

The measure also seeks to establish a COVID-19 National Indemnity Fund to compensate any person who has been vaccinated and experiences serious adverse side effects or even death.

Senate adopts resolution urging Duterte to revoke EO lowering pork import tariffs

Robie de Guzman   •   April 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Committee of the Whole has adopted a resolution calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw his order to temporarily reduce tariff rates for imported pork and increase its minimum access volume.

At least 17 senators supported the resolution during the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on Thursday that sought to discuss issues on local pork supply and prices due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

“The two policies can potentially spell the demise of our local hog industry, most of them belong to what we call backyard hog raisers,” said Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who drafted the resolution.

The Executive Order 128 mandates that the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume (MAV) will 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 1r5 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, the total volume of pork that may be imported to the Philippines.

Duterte signed the order last week in a bid to address supply shortage, stabilize prices, and minimize the inflation rate due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

The resolution hit the Department of Agriculture for its failure to satisfactorily establish through accurate and reliable data that the country will have 388,790 MT of deficit in the supply of pork for the year which necessitates the increase in MAV.

It also stated that based on the testimonies of the resource persons during the first hearing of the committee, “there is a reasonable basis to conclude that the new set of tariff rates and the huge increase in the MAV can cause the demise of the local hog industry and cost the government billions in foregone revenue.

“Industry members and experts believe that the reduction of import duty and the increase in MAV will not necessarily translate to lower pork prices and that such policies can only result in loss of billions of government revenue and the flooding of the market with imported pork,” the resolution read.

The resolution was co-authored by Senate President Vicente Sotto, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri, and Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Leila De Lima, Risa Hontiveros, Lito Lapid, Panfilo Lacson, Imee Marcos, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Richard Gordon, Ramon Revilla Jr., Joel Villanueva, and Cynthia Villar.

Drilon earlier questioned Duterte’s move to sign the order while Congress is on break, stressing that “by law, the authority of the president to fix tariff rates while Congress is not in session can be withdrawn or revoked by virtue of a joint resolution.”

If the executive department will not heed the Senate’s call, Drilon said he would file another resolution in May to revoke the executive order and propose appropriate import duties and minimum access volume of pork.

Congress is currently on break and will resume plenary sessions on May 17.

Malacañang earlier acknowledged that Congress has the authority to revoke EO 128 as the president’s power to adjust tariffs is “only a delegated power given by Congress to the President to impose tariff rates, imports or exports pursuant to Sec. 28 par 2, Art VI of the Constitution.”

Palace respects calls to revoke EO lowering tariff of imported pork

Robie de Guzman   •   April 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang respects the plan of some senators to file a joint resolution seeking the revocation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive order, which temporarily reduces the tariff rates of imported pork products.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that he and Senators Cynthia Villar and Franklin Pangilinan are intent on filing a resolution to reverse Duterte’s Executive Order 128.

“The Palace respects the call of some lawmakers to revoke Executive Order No 128, which temporarily modifies the rates of import duty on fresh, chilled or frozen meat of swine,” Roque said.

The Palace official acknowledged that Congress has the authority to revoke EO 128.

“In the event that our lawmakers decide to reverse EO No 128 lowering the tariff on imported pork, such action is within the legislative power of our lawmakers. EO No 128 lowering the tariff of imported pork is only a delegated power given by Congress to the President to impose tariff rates, imports or exports pursuant to Sec. 28 par 2, Art VI of the Constitution,” he said.

“Hence, Congress may, by law, impose limitations on such delegated power or may reverse the same,” he added.

EO 128 mandates that the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume (MAV) will be reduced to 5 percent during the first three months upon the order’s effectivity, and to 10 percent 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 EO said that the current 30 percent to 40 percent tariff rate for imported pork will be restored after the 12th month.

Duterte signed the order last week in a bid to address supply shortage, stabilize prices, and minimize the inflation rate due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

Drilon said the resolution seeks to revoke the EO  and provide for the appropriate tariff and minimum access volume of port importation.

The senator cited Republic Act 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, which was the basis of EO 128, stating that the law allows the President to increase, reduce or remove existing rates of import duty “while Congress is not in session.”

However, he noted that Section 1608 (f) of RA 10863 provides that “the power herein delegated to the President may be withdrawn or terminated by Congress through a joint resolution.”

“EO 128 will kill the local hog industry, not the African Swine Fever or ASF. The irrational and drastic decision to increase the minimum access volume or MAV serves as a final ‘nail in the coffin’ of the local hog industry,” Drilon said.

Roque, however, said that the president can still exercise his veto power should he raise objections in the tariff bill.

“Further, should Congress pass another bill changing the tariff on imported pork, the President may veto any particular item or items in such appropriation, revenue, or tariff bill,” he said.

“However, given the importance of the issue, the Executive and the Legislative branches can work together in protecting the interest of the stakeholders such as consumers and our hog raisers alike,” he added.

3 senators to file joint resolution seeking to revoke EO on lower pork import tariffs

Robie de Guzman   •   April 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Three senators are planning to file a resolution seeking the revocation of the executive order issued by President Rodrigo Duterte reducing the tariff rate for pork imports.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that he, together with Senator Francis Pangilinan and Senate agriculture committee chairperson Senator Cynthia Villar, will file a joint resolution to revoke Executive Order (EO) 128 and provide for the appropriate tariff and minimum access volume of port importation.

The order mandates that the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume (MAV) will be reduced to 5 percent during the first three months upon the order’s effectivity, and to 10 percent 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 EO said that the current 30 percent to 40 percent tariff rate for imported pork will be restored after the 12th month.

Duterte signed the order last week in a bid to address supply shortage, stabilize prices, and minimize the inflation rate due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

“By law, the authority of the President to fix tariff rates while Congress is not in session can be withdrawn or revoked by virtue of a joint resolution,” Drilon said.

The senator cited Republic Act 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, which was the basis of EO 128, stating that the law allows the President to increase, reduce or remove existing rates of import duty “while Congress is not in session.”

However, he noted that Section 1608 (f) of RA 10863 provides that “the power herein delegated to the President may be withdrawn or terminated by Congress through a joint resolution.”

“EO 128 will kill the local hog industry, not the African Swine Fever or ASF. The irrational and drastic decision to increase the minimum access volume or MAV serves as a final ‘nail in the coffin’ of the local hog industry,” Drilon said.

“Our local hog raisers suffered a double blow in the last two weeks and it is the duty of Congress to stand up for them. Hindi kaya ng maliliit nating hog raisers ang laban sa mga malalaking importers of meat products,” he added.

Drilon said the drastic decrease in tariffs on pork products could result in billions of pesos in lost government revenue.

He added that the Department of Agriculture’s move to recommend the reduction of tariff rates “completely disregarded the livelihood of thousands of local hog raisers.”

During the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on Monday, Drilon questioned the timing of the submission of the President’s proposal to Congress to increase the MAV to 350,000 metric tons (t) from 54,000 t, which was submitted on March 26, the last day of Congress’ session.

He said that Section 6 of the Republic Act 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act provides that “in case of shortages or abnormal price increases in agricultural products, whose quantitative restrictions are lifted under this Act, the President may propose to Congress, revisions, modifications or adjustments of the Minimum Access Volume (MAV).

He, however, noted that this comes with the provision, which states “that in the event Congress fails to act after 15 days from receipt of the proposal, the same shall be deemed approved.”

Drilon maintained that the power to revise, modify or adjust the MAV is a legislative function.

He said that the proposal should have been submitted while Congress was in session to determine the necessary adjustments and that the President could have asked for a special session to discuss the proposal.

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