Executive-Senate ‘backchannel talks’ for compromise on pork imports bared

THE Senate and the executive branch are holding “backchannel” talks for a compromise on President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to increase pork importation and lower tariff and calls to withdraw the order.

Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Wednesday disclosed this but declined to elaborate.

Some senators have appealed to the President to withdraw Executive Order 128 raising pork importation from 54,000 metric tons (MT) to 404,000 MT and lowering tariff on meat imports to address scarce supply due to the African swine fever (ASF).

During the resumption on Tuesday of the Senate Committee of the Whole hybrid hearing on food security, stakeholders said they were not totally averse to increased pork importation but it should not reach 404,000 MT.

They also reiterated their objection to lowering the tariff on pork imports from 40 percent to five percent, saying that the importers would benefit from it and not the hog raisers and consumers.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd and Agriculture Secretary William Dar said they would “keep an open mind” about the appeal of the senators and hog raisers’ groups.

Asked whether the Senate was open to a compromise with the Palace, Lacson, in a text message, said, “The question should be directed to the economic managers who recommended to the President the controversial EO 128 and the unreasonable increase in the MAV (minimum access volume) of pork which the hog raisers, both big and backyard, insist would kill the local hog industry.”

“As a matter of fact, as we speak, some back channeling efforts are underway to work on that compromise,” he pointed out

Lacson added, “Hopefully, we can find a middle ground that will bring out a win-win solution, or terms that are acceptable to all parties concerned.”

Pressed to confirm what Lacson revealed regarding ongoing back channeling effort, Sotto, in a separate text reply, said, “Somewhat. It’s between Sec[retary] Sonny [Dominguez] and I.”

Drilon said, “A possible compromise is being worked on. Don’t ask for the details muna (yet).”