Hog raisers welcome ASF calamity declaration, thank Senate
MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture groups on Tuesday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of a yearlong national state of calamity due to the African swine fever (ASF) was a “moral victory” for hog raisers and other sectors dependent on the industry, seeing it as a measure to stop them from financially bleeding since the outbreak of the disease two years ago.
Duterte’s Proclamation No. 1143 on Monday was a response to urgent appeals from industry groups and senators, who were supported by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Economic and Development Authority.
The declaration would allow the Department of Budget and Management to realign public funds to bankroll efforts to contain the continuing spread of ASF, as well as repair the economic damage it caused.
It will give the national and local governments more leeway in using their funds, including the Quick Response Fund, to control the disease.
Senate ‘vigilance’ cited
“We thank the Senate for pushing for the declaration of the state of calamity … again, another moral victory for the local hog industry and the agriculture sector in general,” said Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura.
“We request the Senate to continue its vigilance by ensuring that those affected by ASF be compensated and the funds to be realigned will go to the rehabilitation of the industry,” it added.
In March, the senators adopted Senate Resolution No. 676, citing the possible use of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund and Quick Response Fund to supplement the DA’s efforts to contain and manage ASF.
The senators said that under the budget law, the President may declare savings and use them “to augment actual deficiencies” during a state of national calamity.
Proclamation 1143 said there was a need “to jump-start the rehabilitation of the local hog industry, and to ensure the availability, adequacy and affordability of pork products, all for the purpose of attaining food security.”
It “enjoined” all government agencies and local governments to assist and cooperate with each other “and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent and appropriate measures in a timely manner to curtail the further spread of ASF, address the supply deficit in pork products, reduce retail prices, and jump-start the rehabilitation of the local hog industry.”
The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (Pampi) also welcomed the announcement.
“We are aware that the President’s declaration of a state of calamity due to ASF effectively freezes proposed adjustments in our selling prices in spite of a three-fold increase in the prices of imported raw material. Nevertheless, we will need to tighten our belts further until we can get relief to help ensure that inflation will not rise any further,” the group said.
“Meat products are major contributors to overall inflation. Thus, we deem it [in] the best interest of our industry, our consumers, and the economy in general to keep prices of our products stable for as long as possible,” it added.
Nicanor Briones, vice president of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines, who had long lobbied for emergency funds, stressed that incentivizing livestock raisers by raising the indemnity fund and expanding insurance coverage would ensure that ASF cases would not go unreported.
Since the DA confirmed the first case of ASF in the country in 2019, the disease had spread to 12 regions, 46 provinces, and 493 cities and municipalities nationwide, reducing the country’s hog inventory to its lowest in 20 years.
According to the emergency proclamation, the swine population in the Philippines had dropped to around 3 million and caused losses of more than P100 billion to the sector.
Duterte on Monday also issued Executive Order No. 133 to raise the minimum access volume for pork to 254,210 metric tons from 54,000 MT.
Livestock groups, however, remain guarded, as pork tariffs were still nailed to a low of 5 percent.
“Market forces will eventually decide whether or not the volume of 254,210 MT is adequate enough to address the pork shortage,” said Pampi.
Under an agreement between senators and economic managers, the tariff on pork imports covered by the MAV would be reduced to 10 percent for the first three months, and to 15 percent in the next nine months.
For pork imports outside MAV, they agreed that the tariff would be reduced to 20 percent for the first three months, and to 25 percent in the succeeding months.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Saturday said that if the approved MAV were complemented by the lower tariff, imported pork prices would go down by about 23 percent.
DA and the Department of Trade and Industry were still calculating the suggested retail price for imported pork based on the final tariffs, he said.
The President has yet to approve the tariff rates agreed on by the senators and the economic managers.
—WITH A REPORT FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
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