Lacson to Duterte: Lower taxes on imported pork will turn local industry ‘double-dead’

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson asked President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his Executive Order (EO) No. 128 which lowers taxes for imported pork, as it will have a “double-dead” effect on the local hog industry in the Philippines. 

“On behalf of the hog raisers, we urgently appeal to the president to reconsider and recall such executive order,” said Lacson during the Senate committee of the whole hearing on the food security crisis brought about by the African Swine Fever (ASF) on Monday, April 12.

“Botcha o 'double-dead' ang epekto ng EO 128. Bakit? Patay ang lokal na industriya ng baboy; patay din ang koleksyon ng taripa ng gobyerno,” he added.

(The effect of EO 128 is "double-dead." Why? The local pork industry is already dead; and the collection of government tariffs is also dead.)

Signed last April 7, Duterte’s EO 128 temporarily reduces the most favored nation tariffs on fresh, chilled, or frozen pork meat for a year.

But Lacson cited an estimate by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) saying the EO would lead to the decline in tax collection once the new tariff rates are enacted. 

“Dahil sa pagbababa ng taripa, nasa P3.6 billion ang inaasahang mawawala sa gobyerno. Base pa rin sa isang ‘simulation’ na isinagawa ng Bureau of Customs, maaaring tumaas pa sa P5.4 billion ang mawawala sa loob lamang ng 9 na buwan,” said Lacson.

(Because of the lowering rate of tariffs, the government will lose about P3.6 billion. Based also on a ‘simulation’ conducted by the Bureau of Customs, the loss might increase to P5.4B within the next 9 months.)

Lacson argued the Department of Agriculture should have focused more on local solutions first rather than importation, considering the two crises – that is the ASF outbreak and the coronavirus pandemic – now being faced by Filipinos. 

“Don’t they realize that such inconsiderate cause of action has far-reaching implications on our country’s food security and even on our national security?” said Lacson. 

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority from 2018 to 2020, Lacson said the local production of pork – which averaged 2,250,000 metric tons – is more than enough to supply the country's consumption in a year worth 1,850,000 metric tons.

For Lacson, there is no need to import even one kilogram of pork since official government records in the BOC show that local production is more than enough to supply the entire country. 

Local hog industry now 'comatose'

Other senators also aired their opposition to the signing of EO 128.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said she was “disappointed” with the EO as it signals the government’s failure to heed the call of local hog raisers who must now compete with importers of pork while struggling with the ASF outbreak. 

“Comatose na nga ang industriya, pero bakit parang walang balak buhayin at bigyan muli ng sigla?” Hontiveros added.

(The industry is already comatose but why does it appear as if there was no attempt to revive it?)

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, who had primarily authored a Senate resolution recommending a state of calamity declaration due to the impact of the ASF outbreak, earlier said the executive order should be reconsidered.

"Well siyempre nakakalungkot dahil ang ating isinusulong dito ay pangunahing concerns ng hog industry…. Hindi naman tayo tumututol sa imports per se, dahil maliwanag naman na mayroon talagang kakulangan. Ngunit ang concern natin ay mukhang, baka 'yung the cure is worse than the disease," Pangilinan told reporters via Zoom on April 8

(Well of course we're saddened by this since we've pushed for the primary concerns of the hog industry. We're not against imports per se, because there's clearly a supply shortage. But our concern is that it seems the cure is worse than the disease.)

The first case of ASF in the Philippines was recorded in February 2020 in Batangas, the second largest hog producer in the country. – Rappler.com

Christina Quiambao is a 4th year journalism student from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She is a Rappler intern.