‘Compromise’ reached on pork imports–Sotto

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THE Senate and the Department of Finance have reached a “compromise” to amend Executive Order (EO) 128 increasing pork importation and lowering the tariff on meat imports.

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto 3rd revealed this on Wednesday following a meeting between some senators and economic managers on the need to review EO 128.

“Compromise reached!” Sotto said in a text message.

Asked to elaborate, he said, “I’ll let [Finance] Sec[retary Carlos] Dominguez [3rd] announce the figures we accepted after a seesaw of discussion on both MAV and tariff.”

“We had to strike a balance between accepting a formula in the reduction of inflation and the protection of the local swine industry. [EO] 128 will be amended,” Sotto stressed.

Sotto, chairman of the Senate Committee of the Whole, had conducted three hybrid public hearings on the alleged “tongpats” or kickbacks in pork importation and other issues related to food security.

Malacanang issued EO 128 increasing the minimum access volume (MAV) in 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 effect of the African swine fever (ASF).

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson recently requested a copy of the inventory of the unused minimum access volume MAV of imported pork from the Department of Agriculture (DA), as well as the list of importers who were issued and allotted the unused MAV.

Lacson said the inventory was very important in determining MAV allocation as he questioned the huge volume recommended by the DA.

Sen. Maria Josefa Imelda “Imee” Marcos had voiced concern that EO 128 might be violating Section 1608 of Republic Act (RA) 10863 or the flexibility clause which gives the President the power to amend tariffs

Marcos pointed out that while Section 1608 states that the “existing rates may be increased or decreased to any level, in one or several stages, in no case shall the increased rate of import duty be higher than a maximum of 100 percent ad valorem.”

EO 128 temporarily modifies the rates of import duty on fresh, chilled, or frozen meat of swine under Section 1611 of RA 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

Sen. Mary Grace Poe also called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other concerned government agencies to “take care” of the country’s borders to further prevent the entry of ASF.

“I think that there will be other instances that things like this will happen again,” said Poe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Services.

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