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Give EO 128 2 months to work—Palace to senators

MALACAÑANG urged lawmakers on Wednesday to allow the implementation of Executive Order 128 for at least two months before they push for its withdrawal.

This after senators called out to President Duterte to scrap the new issuance, which lowered the tariff for pork for one year, amid concern it could flood the market with imports. Some senators doubted government projections and said data indicate the planned additional import volumes far exceed the projected demand despite shortages triggered by the African swine fever (ASF).

In a statement, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced the appeal of Duterte the lawmakers to give EO 128 a chance to achieve its intended purpose.

“We are one with the Senate in ensuring the recovery of the local swine industry and the attainment of sufficient domestic pork production,” Roque said.

“Let us revisit the EO in two months to assess whether the aforesaid intended effects have been realized/met,” he added.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III confirmed on Wednesday that Senate probers are reopening next week their inquiry into another controversial pork supply delivery from foreign suppliers.

Sotto said he is set to convene on April 27 the Committee of the Whole to look deeper into the issues surrounding the pork shortage and price spikes crisis, and the interventions which some senators believe mask anomalies in the importation of agricultural products.

The Senate leader confirmed that on the list of invited resource persons at the April 27 hearing are Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez who chairs the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) that led deliberations and made final recommendations to issue EO 128; agriculture officials led by Agriculture Secretary William Dar, as well as Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua.

Sotto told the BusinessMirror on Tuesday that he will invite Dominguez to the next hearing after the latter wrote him to say that it was the EDC which pushed all the crucial decisions on the pork crisis issues—a taking of responsibility seen to allay suspicions by some senators that Dar or DA officials might have been pressured by lobby groups looking to cash in on an expanded MAV.

After the first two hearings, Senate probers had indicated they were inclined to shoot down the twin options to reduce pork tariff and increase import volumes as this will effectively kill the P300-billion local hog industry and cause government billions in revenue.

Duterte issued EO 128 on April 7, 2021 upon the recommendation of the Department of Agriculture and the government’s economic managers to stabilize the supply and price of pork meat, and thus minimize inflation.

Under EO 128, the tariff of in-quota pork will be reduced to 5 percent during the first three months of its implementation. It will be raised to 10 percent during 4th and 12th month of effectivity of the issuance.

For out-quota pork products the following rates will be implemented: 15 percent during the first three months of effectivity of EO 128; and 20 percent during the 4th to 12th month of effectivity of the issuance.

A year after the implementation of EO 128, the original tariff rate for in-quota and out-quota imported pork will revert to their original rates at 30 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Instead of the lower pork tariff, senators urged the concerned agencies to provide the necessary support and financing to hog farmers affected by the ASF, so they could resume their operations.

The government insisted, however, that it has lined up ample interventions to help the local hog sector from collapsing, but the tariff and MAV options are still necessary as short-term, emergency measures.

Since the introduction of ASF in the country, the disease infected and led to the culling of thousands of hogs, which created a shortage of locally sourced pork.

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