Pork imports EO to be amended as senators, economic team reach 'compromise'

President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial executive order (EO) reducing taxes on pork imports will be amended after senators strongly opposing the policy struck a "compromise" with the government's economic managers.

"Compromise reached… [EO] 128 will be amended," Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters on Wednesday, May 5.

Sotto said senators and Duterte's economic managers agreed to "strike a balance between accepting a formula in the reduction of inflation and the protection of the local swine industry."

But he refused to discuss further details for now, saying that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III will be announcing the amended figures.

The leader of the Senate had met with Dominguez a week ago in a bid to find a middle ground on Duterte's EO 128.

Congress had clashed with the executive branch over the pork imports policy, as both the Senate and the House of Representatives called on Duterte to revoke his order.

EO 128 temporarily cuts the tariff rate on pork imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) – or the number of allowable pork imports – from the current 30% to 5% for the first 3 months upon effectivity of the order, then to 10% for the next 9 months.

Tariff on pork imports outside the MAV will also be reduced from the current 40% to 15% for the first 3 months, then 20% for the succeeding 9 months.

As EO 128 lowers the tariffs, MAV quota for pork will also be increased from 54,210 metric tons to 404,210 MT.

But senators said this policy would "kill" the local hog industry, which is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic and the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak that has led to dwindling supplies and soaring prices of pork.

The pork supply crisis forced senators to hold 3 committee of the whole hearings on the "severe impact" of the ASF outbreak.

Dominguez told senators during the 3rd and last hearing that the trade-off under EO 128 would be beneficial to cash-strapped Filipinos, as it would save consumers some P67.38 billion.

But the legislators still grilled Cabinet officials over EO 128, which they said is "so out of range" and ultimately favors importers, to the detriment of Filipino hog raisers.

Duterte earlier appealed to lawmakers to give his controversial EO two months to achieve its goal, with Malacañang asking Congress to refrain from passing a joint resolution that would effectively revoke the President's order.

The earliest that Congress can scrap EO 128 is May 17, when session resumes. Lawmakers are on a two-month break. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.