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Senate insists on ’state of calamity’ over pork crisis

With the Senate convening as a Committee of the Whole today (Monday) to discuss possible corruption in pork importation, Senator Francis Pangilinan on Sunday again appealed to Malacañang to declare a state of calamity due to the African swine fever outbreak.

“For the sake of consumers, for the sake of local farmers, for the sake of the local hog industry, please declare a state of calamity and provide the necessary funding to address the calamity," he said.

Pangilinan made his statement even as Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called for full transparency in the pork importation scheme and urged the Department of Agriculture to disclose the list of meat importers under the minimum access volume or MAV scheme.

“I call for complete transparency. If we are transparent, we can avoid people’s perception that there is corruption in pork importation,” said Drilon, citing various allegations of “tongpats” or kickbacks in the pork importation.

“Sino ang makikinabang? Saan manggagaling ang imported pork? Sino ang importer?” Drilon added in an interview with radio station dzBB.

Pangilinan said the ASF caused the culling of millions of pigs and the near-collapse of the hog industry, 70 percent of which consist of backyard hog-raisers.

“We did this in 1995 during the foot-and-mouth disease, and I was food security secretary in 2014 during the cocolisap infestation. After six months the 57 hotspots was lowered to 1 hotspot after a state of calamity declaration,” he said.

A declaration of a state of calamity will unlock billions of pesos in calamity funds that can be used to indemnify hog raisers who had to cull their pigs to pay for temporarily under-worked hog raisers for work as biosafety officers and other similar efforts to help revive the industry, Pangilinan said.

This is additional revenue while the industry is recovering, he added.

The former food security secretary said while importation is a stop-gap measure for the insufficient pork supply due to the ASF, massive pork importation is not the solution to the disease.

"We are not against importation because there is a shortage in pork. But not massive importation that will kill our local hog industry, which is also struggling to survive,” he said.

At the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on the possible ‘tong-pats’ in pork importation, Pangilinan said the following questions need to be answered: “Who applied for permits to import? What is their track record? Are they bogus or dummy? Are they part of a cartel or a syndicate?”

He said billions of pesos were at stake and it was not hard to imagine that some would be tempted to profit off the local hog industry’s woes.

Since the Department of Agriculture confirmed the first ASF outbreak started in July 2019, ASF outbreaks have been reported throughout the country. On March 17, the DA reported that the ASF had spread to 12 regions, 40 provinces, 466 cities and municipalities and 2,425 communities in the Philippines, causing a loss of over 3 million pigs.

Topics: Committee of the Whole , Senate , State of Emergency , Franklin Drilon , African swine fever
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