The Senate wants President Rodrigo Duterte to put the country under a state of national calamity due to the “severe impact” of the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak.
On Monday, March 15, senators adopted the amended version of Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 676, which urges the Department of Agriculture (DA) to “recommend to the President to declare a state of national calamity” because of ASF’s crippling effects on the swine industry.
The resolution, primarily authored by Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, said such a declaration would allow the government to utilize the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund as well as the Quick Response Fund to finance efforts aimed at curbing ASF cases.
Under a state of calamity, Duterte himself would also be able to authorize the use of savings in the annual national budget to augment any budget deficiencies in ASF response programs.
In PSR No. 676, senators are also formally opposing the DA’s proposal to triple the minimum access volume or the number of allowable pork imports with lower tariffs from 54,000 metric tons to 162,000 metric tons.
Should the DA’s plan push through, more pork imports would be imposed tax of 5% instead of 30%.
PSR No. 676, however, merely expresses the “sense” of the Senate. It does not have the full force and effect of the law, and therefore cannot compel Duterte or the DA to act on its recommendations.
In February, 6 municipalities and a city in Albay province were tagged as red zones due to an ASF outbreak among their livestock.
The DA previously told senators that repopulating areas affected by ASF, financing farmers, and mobilizing supply from surplus provinces to Metro Manila are still its main priorities.