“The President is listening to everyone, especially if all senators have a unified call,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Several senators have expressed opposition to Executive Order No. 128 that temporarily reduces the rates of import duty on fresh, chilled, or frozen pork products for one year.
Under EO 128, the tariff rate on pork imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) was reduced from the current rate of 30 percent to 5 percent for the first three months and to 10 percent for the next nine months.
Pork imports outside MAV, according to EO 128, will be slapped with a lower tariff of 15 percent for the first three months and 20 percent for the succeeding nine months from the current 40 percent.
Senators, however, believed lowering the tariff in the importation of swine products would only kill the local hog industry.
During the Senate Committee of the Whole public hearing on Monday, Senator Panfilo Lacson warned that the government would lose P3.6 billion because of the lower tariff rates.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III was also surprised the Department of Agriculture was able to convince Duterte to approveits proposed pork tariff reduction.
Sotto said he and his fellow senators might ask Duterte to withdraw EO 128.
Earlier, Duterte asked Congress to approve his recommendation to raise the MAV allocation to 350,000 metric tons from the current 54,210 to boost the pork supply in the country.
The DA has also urged Duterte to sign the draft proclamation declaring a state of national emergency in the country to address the severe impact of African swine fever on the hog industry.
In a memorandum dated March 17, Agriculture Secretary William Dar explained the ASF has already spread to 12 regions, 40 provinces, 466 cities and municipalities, and 2,425 villages nationwide.
The declaration of a state of national emergency, Dar said, would “mandate and capacitate concerned government agencies, including the local government units, to work together to prevent and control the further spread of ASF.”
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri pressed Dar on the unabated importation of choice cuts for local consumption, to the detriment of local producers of pork products.
“Policy-wise, importation should be the last resort of the DA. Take a look at Thailand and Vietnam. Pinagtitibay nila ang local agriculture nila. That is food security,” Zubiri said.
“With the executive order on the increased importation as well as the lowering of the import tariffs of imported pork products, lalo lang silang malulugi. If we import, we damage the local industry. So we appeal to the DA to revise the EO,” the senator added.
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