The Senate and the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday agreed on recommended adjustments to controversial policies on pork imports.
In a statement, the Department of Agriculture said that after lengthy deliberations, President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team reached a compromise with the Senate on pork import tariff rates and the minimum access volume (MAV).
Agriculture Secretary William Dar, a member of the government’s economic team, said they recommended the tariff rates be adjusted to 10% to 25% from the 5% to 20% stated under Executive Order 128.
For the first three months, they proposed a rate of 10% for in-quota imports — or those within the minimum access volume or MAV — and 20% for out-quota or those in excess of the MAV.
These will then be raised to 15% for in-quota and 25% for out-quota for the remaining nine months, Dar said.
Both sides also agreed the MAV be reduced from 404,000 to 254,210 metric tons.
The economic team met with Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III four times since late April to discuss a middle ground.
Duterte signed EO 128 last April 7 despite objections from local hog raisers and producers, who said the lower tariffs will bring a total loss of up to ₱14 billion in revenues and would decimate the local pork industry.
Meanwhile, the economist of the House of Representatives on Wednesday said the spike in the price of meat is the major contributor to inflation, and decisive action is now needed to control inflation.
“I have my reservations about EO 128, but now that it has the force of law, we must give it a chance to work,” Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said.
“Domestic supply, for now, cannot handle the demand for pork meat and stabilize prices. We have to import for the moment,” Salceda said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Dar said the recommended revision “is necessary to arrest the inflationary impact on millions of Filipino consumers due to the dwindling pork supply.”
“Given that we have reached a compromise, we will act without delay to reflect the features of the compromise in a corresponding executive issuance,” he added.
The DA will submit these recommendations to National Economic and Development Authority chief Karl Chua, who will then make the final proposal to the Office of the President.
Dar said this is only an “urgent short-term measure,” adding they are “aggressively” taking steps to help the local hog industry recover from the impact of the African swine fever outbreak.
Salceda said: “We need long-run investments in biosafety, better feeding, and value-chains for the domestic pork industry. But long-run solutions take time.”
“I have proposed measures to expand crop insurance for livestock, invest in biosafety facilities, and develop value chains for agriculture. But for now, immediate supply stabilization through a balance of imports and domestic supply management is the key,” he added.
Salceda called on the Department of Agriculture to help small players, farmer groups, and the domestic swine industry participate in the import market. I support their effort to distribute freezers to small players.
“We must also have a mechanism to allow farmers’ cooperatives to import pork meat by consolidating smaller import orders,” the solon said.
At the same time, “we must ensure that domestic players, especially backyard hog raisers who account for 70 percent of pork production, are protected from any further outbreaks of the African Swine Fever,” he said.
Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, an economist, shared Salceda's view.
"These latest figures highlight the urgent need for policies that can help bring down commodity prices, particularly, food prices."
Quimbo, member of the House minority bloc, recalled having authored House Bill 9256 or the Affordable Pork Act of 2021 to authorize the government to directly procure pork meat for purposes of price stabilization in times of emergency such as this.
"At this point, our local production is struggling due to ASF. Hog raisers need to be able to sell at a price that’s reasonably high enough for them to recover costs," she said.
At the same time, Quimbo noted "we need to bring down retail prices for consumers. Government can provide temporary support and 'buy high' from producers and 'sell low' to consumers. It can ensure that prices are fair and competitive by temporarily bringing supply directly to the market."
This as Salceda warned that “domestic supply defense will remain absolutely critical, as the rest of the world is also facing ASF.”
He added: “Individual backyard farming, without the support of cooperatives and farmer associations, will clearly no longer work for us. Individualized farming bears too much risk for too little reward for the individual farmer. It also fails to produce food for us at efficient levels.”
“Agriculture works best in consolidation, with a support ecosystem. I hope to work with the DA so that we can move in this direction,” Salceda said.