Sotto scores Dar over alleged ‘tongpats’ scheme in pork imports
MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture Secretary William Dar has no business being the chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA) if he is not aware of the so-called “tongpats” scheme in the importation of pork, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday.
“He has no business being DA [secretary] if he is not aware,” Sotto said in a message shared to reporters when asked if he thinks Dar knows about the said scheme.
A Senate investigation is being pushed to probe the “tongpats” scheme, where kickbacks can supposedly reach up to P6 billion a year if a DA proposal to lower the tariffs and increase import allocation on such products is approved by President Rodrigo Duterte.
If approved, the DA proposal would reduce the tariffs slapped on pork to as low as 5 to 15 percent over the next six months and 10 to 20 percent for the next six months, from in-quota and out-quota rates of 30 to 40 percent.
It would also raise the volume of pork imports under the minimum access volume (MAV) to 404,210 metric tons (MT) from 54,000 MT. Lower tariffs are imposed on imports under MAV.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, who bared the alleged scheme, shared the same view as Sotto, saying Dar “should know or at least have heard of the shenanigans within his department.”
In particular, Lacson said Dar should be aware of what is happening in the MAV Management Committee (Council), composed of the Bureau of Animal Industry and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and “the existing ‘SOPs’ in the allocation of quota to favored importers and the issuance of the Phyto-Sanitary Import Clearance (PSIC).”
“This practice has been going on for several years now. For example, between June and October 2018, imported pork from banned countries due to the ASF like Belgium, Hungary, Germany and China flooded the local market which prompted the issuance of a memorandum order by then Sec [Manny] Piñol,” he said.
“Triple whammy ang tama sa atin ng ma-anomalyang praktis na ito. Bukod sa pinapatay ang lokal na industrya ng hog raising, may health concerns at issue ng forgone revenues pa,” he added.
“We should unmask who is/are behind this scheme no matter how powerful and influential he may be with this administration,” he further said.
On Monday, the Senate adopted a resolution opposing the DA proposal to lower tariffs on pork while increasing the import allocation on such products.
The resolution also urged Duterte to declare a state of national calamity due to the “severe impact” of the African swine fever on the hog industry.
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