MANILA, Philippines – Three senators are planning to file a resolution seeking the revocation of the executive order issued by President Rodrigo Duterte reducing the tariff rate for pork imports.
In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that he, together with Senator Francis Pangilinan and Senate agriculture committee chairperson Senator Cynthia Villar, will file a joint resolution to revoke Executive Order (EO) 128 and provide for the appropriate tariff and minimum access volume of port importation.
The order mandates that the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume (MAV) will be reduced to 5 percent during the first three months upon the order’s effectivity, and to 10 percent during the months four to 12.
For pork imports outside the quota, the order cuts the tariff to 15 percent during the first three months upon its effectivity, and 20 percent for the months four to 12.
The EO said that the current 30 percent to 40 percent tariff rate for imported pork will be restored after the 12th month.
Duterte signed the order last week in a bid to address supply shortage, stabilize prices, and minimize the inflation rate due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.
“By law, the authority of the President to fix tariff rates while Congress is not in session can be withdrawn or revoked by virtue of a joint resolution,” Drilon said.
The senator cited Republic Act 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, which was the basis of EO 128, stating that the law allows the President to increase, reduce or remove existing rates of import duty “while Congress is not in session.”
However, he noted that Section 1608 (f) of RA 10863 provides that “the power herein delegated to the President may be withdrawn or terminated by Congress through a joint resolution.”
“EO 128 will kill the local hog industry, not the African Swine Fever or ASF. The irrational and drastic decision to increase the minimum access volume or MAV serves as a final ‘nail in the coffin’ of the local hog industry,” Drilon said.
“Our local hog raisers suffered a double blow in the last two weeks and it is the duty of Congress to stand up for them. Hindi kaya ng maliliit nating hog raisers ang laban sa mga malalaking importers of meat products,” he added.
Drilon said the drastic decrease in tariffs on pork products could result in billions of pesos in lost government revenue.
He added that the Department of Agriculture’s move to recommend the reduction of tariff rates “completely disregarded the livelihood of thousands of local hog raisers.”
During the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on Monday, Drilon questioned the timing of the submission of the President’s proposal to Congress to increase the MAV to 350,000 metric tons (t) from 54,000 t, which was submitted on March 26, the last day of Congress’ session.
He said that Section 6 of the Republic Act 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act provides that “in case of shortages or abnormal price increases in agricultural products, whose quantitative restrictions are lifted under this Act, the President may propose to Congress, revisions, modifications or adjustments of the Minimum Access Volume (MAV).
He, however, noted that this comes with the provision, which states “that in the event Congress fails to act after 15 days from receipt of the proposal, the same shall be deemed approved.”
Drilon maintained that the power to revise, modify or adjust the MAV is a legislative function.
He said that the proposal should have been submitted while Congress was in session to determine the necessary adjustments and that the President could have asked for a special session to discuss the proposal.