Department of Agriculture

Lacson wants P6-billion kickback scheme in pork imports probed

Ralf Rivas
Lacson wants P6-billion kickback scheme in pork imports probed

ADDITIONAL SUPPLY. Around 2,000 hogs from South Cotabato arrive in Manila on February 17, 2021, amid the pork shortage in the National Capital Region.

Rappler file photo

'Nasaan na ang konsensiya ng mga taong iyan, who, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, nagsasamantala pa para pagsamantalahan ang African swine fever?' asks Senator Panfilo Lacson

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday, March 16, called for a Senate investigation into a syndicate allegedly poised to get as much as P6 billion in kickbacks, as the government moves to bring in more imported pork amid price spikes and supply shortages.

Lacson, citing a “highly placed source,” said a “tongpats” or grease money scheme is in place in the Department of Agriculture (DA) and may spread further if the minimum access volume (MAV) for imported pork is increased and tariffs are lowered to 5%.

“I received this disturbing information from a highly placed source who has knowledge of the modus operandi within the agency that at present, rates of 30% tariff on in-quota hog importation and 40% for off-quota importation, mayroong umiiral na kalakaran na tongpats or SOP of P5 to P7 per kilo (there’s a kickback scheme or SOP of P5 to P7 per kilo),” Lacson said.

With the DA’s proposal, Lacson said, the syndicate and officials involved could earn as much as P6 billion a year by collecting an extra P5 to P7 per kilo of pork that enters the country.

“Nasaan na ang konsensiya ng mga taong iyan, who, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, nagsasamantala pa para pagsamantalahan ang African swine fever?” Lacson said.

(Where is the conscience of these people, who, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, are taking advantage of the African swine fever crisis?)

But MAV Executive Director Jane Bacayo said, “The issuance of MAV is aboveboard and non-discretionary on the part of the DA-MAV Secretariat.”

The lowering of tariffs is among the DA’s proposals to tame meat inflation, along with price ceilings. The proposal is opposed by meat producers, as it would hurt the local industry and cost the government billions of pesos in foregone revenues.

Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura chairperson Rosendo So maintained that the current pork shortfall is only 150 million kilos and can be imported at the existing tariff level and MAV allocation.

“Both consumers and producers will be the losers, while only a handful of importers and those getting tongpats will benefit from tariff reduction and MAV expansion,” So said. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.