MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte will consider the recommendation of senators to recall his decision to lower the tariff rates on imported pork products, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
“Nakikinig naman po ang Presidente sa lahat lalung-lalo na kung magsasama-sama ang mga senador (The President is listening to everyone, especially if all senators have a unified call),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online press briefing.
This, after several senators have expressed opposition to Duterte’s recent decision to temporarily reduce the rates of import duty on fresh, chilled, or frozen pork products for one year.
Under Executive Order (EO) 128 inked by Duterte on April 7, the tariff rate on pork imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) was reduced from the current rate of 30 percent to 5 percent for the first three months and to 10 percent for the next nine months.
Pork imports outside MAV, according to EO 128, will be slapped with a lower tariff of 15 percent for the first three months and 20 percent for the succeeding nine months from the current 40 percent.
Senators, however, believed that lowering the tariff in the importation of swine products would only kill the local hog industry.
During the Senate Committee of the Whole public hearing on Monday, Senator Panfilo Lacson warned that the government would lose PHP3.6 billion because of the lower tariff rates.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III was also surprised that the Department of Agriculture (DA) was able to convince Duterte to approve its proposed pork tariff reduction.
Sotto added that he and his fellow senators might ask Duterte to withdraw EO 128.
Roque ensured that the senators’ sentiments would be heard.
“Hindi nila maintindihan kung bakit kailangang ibaba pa ang taripa na hindi rin naman magreresulta sa pagbaba ng presyo ng baboy sa ating palengke (They don’t understand why the tariff rates should be reduced, considering that it would not bring down the price of pork in the markets),” he said. “So tingin ko naman po, makikinig ang ating Presidente sa ating mga senador dahil pinakikinggan naman po ang lahat (So, I think the President will listen to the senators because he listens to everyone).”
Earlier, Duterte asked Congress to approve his recommendation to raise the MAV allocation to 350,000 metric tons from the current 54,210 to boost the pork supply in the country.
The DA has also urged Duterte to sign the draft proclamation declaring a state of national emergency in the country to address the severe impact of African swine fever (ASF) on the hog industry.
In a memorandum dated March 17, Agriculture Secretary William Dar explained that the ASF has already spread to 12 regions, 40 provinces, 466 cities and municipalities, and 2,425 villages nationwide.
The declaration of a state of national emergency, Dar said, would “mandate and capacitate concerned government agencies, including the local government units, to work together to prevent and control the further spread of ASF.” (PNA)