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No to ‘botcha’ policies: Senators urge Duterte to junk EO on pork tariff cuts

/ 03:06 PM April 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate, sitting as the Committee of the Whole, has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw his executive order lowering tariffs on imported pork and to recall his recommendation to increase the importation of pork to the country.

The committee, which is composed of all senators, adopted a resolution introduced by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday requesting that the President withdraw Executive Order No. 128. The resolution was signed by 19 senators.

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The action follows the panel’s investigation into the food security crisis caused by the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak and pork importation irregularities.

According to the resolution, testimonies of the resource persons during the committee’s first hearing on the issue last Monday established a “reasonable basis to conclude that the new set of tariff rates and the huge increase in the MAV (minimum access volume) can cause the demise of the local hog industry and cost the government billions in foregone revenue and must therefore be reviewed by the President.”

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‘Botcha’ policies

“The two policies can potentially spell the demise of our local hog industry; most of them belong to what we call backyard hog raisers,” Drilon said.

“Our local hog raisers suffer a ‘double blow,’ a ‘double whammy.’ ‘Botcha’ po ang dalawang polisiyang ito na gustong ipatupad ng Department of Agriculture (DA). What do we do with ‘botcha’ or double-dead meat, in this case, policies? We recall them,” he added.

(Our local hog raisers suffer a ‘double blow,’ a ‘double whammy.’ These two policies that the Department of Agriculture has proposed are ‘double-dead.’ What do we do with ‘botcha’ or double-dead meat, in this case, policies? We recall them.)

Last week, the President signed Executive Order No. 128, which temporarily lowers tariff rates on fresh, chilled, or frozen pork meat. The reason for these tariffs is “to address the existing pork shortage, stabilize prices of pork meat, and minimize inflation rates.”

READ: Duterte temporarily cuts tariff rate for imported pork products

In addition to lowering pork import tariffs, the President also suggested, in a letter to Congress, an increase in MAV of 350,000 metric tons on top of the current 54,210 MT.

However, the resolution stresses that this authority falls within the authority to assess taxes, which is the legislature’s exclusive jurisdiction under the Constitution.

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“[I]t is Congress which authorizes the President to impose tariff rates, import and export quotas, tonnage and wharfage dues, and other duties or imposts and that such authorization can be exercised only within the specified limits set in the law and is further subject to limitations and restrictions which Congress may impose,” the resolution read.

Drilon warned that if no action is taken by May 17, he would take a “more affirmative action” of withdrawing the delegated authority of the President “because that is allowed under our laws.”

The minority leader, meanwhile, noted that the President conveyed his recommendation to increase the MAV in a letter to Congress only on Mar. 26, the last session day.

Congress is currently on break and will resume the session on May 17.

Drilon cited Section 6 of the Agricultural Tariffication Act, which provides that the President’s recommendation to revise, modify or adjust the MAV in case of “shortages or abnormal price increases” in agricultural products “is deemed approved if Congress fails to act after fifteen (15) days from receipt.”

But the resolution argued that the said provision “is not applicable in this case because the President’s recommendation was sent to and received by the Senate when it was no longer in session and thus cannot act on the recommendation.”

Aside from Drilon, the resolution is co-authored by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, Lito Lapid, Panfilo Lacson, Imee Marcos, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino “Koko” PImentel III, Grace Poe, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. Joel Villanueva and Cynthia Villar are also co-authors of the resolution.

While Senator Richard Gordon has yet to sign the resolution, he manifested his intent to be included as one of its co-authors.

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TAGS: MAV, Nation, News, pork importation, Senate, tariff
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