DA urged to prioritize eradication of ASF, extension of aid to hog farmers

Robie de Guzman   •   April 12, 2021   •   276

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to “do everything in its power” to resolve the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak, and to prioritize the extension of aid to struggling local hog industry stakeholders.

“This food crisis is a local problem that must have a local solution. In order of priority, unahin po natin ang pagsugpo sa ASF at pagtulong sa mga magbababoy. Iyan ang tanong po natin sa DA ngayon. Ano po ang farm-level solutions nyo?” Villanueva said in Monday’s Senate hearing on the alleged “tongpats scheme” within the DA on imported pork.

Villanueva made the call as he expressed apprehension over President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 128 to temporarily lower the tariffs on pork imports to resolve the existing pork supply shortage and stabilize meat prices in the country.

“At hindi po ako naniniwala na ang solusyon sa krisis na ito ay mag-import ng karne. An imported virus is killing local pigs. We should not let too much imported pork finish off what is left of our hog industry. Our salvation cannot be found in foreign farms,” he said.

Villanueva said that the ASF outbreak has reduced the supply of local pork in the market and that he wants to know what the DA is doing to counter this scarcity that has been driving the prices of meat to unaffordable levels.

“Maliban sa pag-alis ng tariff walls, ano po ang farmgate interventions ng DA? The national swine inventory is down by 3 million heads. Piggeries have been emptied of one-fourth of their stocks. This 25-percent plunge in the livestock population translates to a 100-percent bankruptcy rate in many pig farms. Biyak na po pati kanilang piggy banks,” he said in a separate statement.

The senator noted that in Bulacan alone, the pork production inventory was already down by one-third last year while the hog production in the whole Central Luzon plunged to one-fourth in 2020.

“P8,000 po ang nawalang kita sa kada ulo ng baboy. Di hamak mas malaki po ito sa P1,000 na ayuda ng gobyerno kada ulo sa isang bahay,” he said.

Other senators have earlier called on Duterte to reconsider and recall EO 128 as this will only further burden local hog raisers who are already suffering from the negative impact of the ASF crisis.

Under EO 128, the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume will be pegged at 5 percent for the first three months of the order’s effectivity and 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.

“There is an urgent need to temporarily reduce the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff rates on fresh, chilled or frozen meat of swine to address the existing pork supply shortage, stabilize prices of pork meat, and minimize inflation rates,” Duterte said in his order.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, however, said there is no need to import more pork products because the local production is already more than sufficient to address the shortage of pork supply.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Lacson said the average nationwide consumption of pork products from 2018 to 2020 was at 1.85 million metric tons.

During the same period, the average annual local production of pork was 2.25 million metric tons.

“So where is the shortage? Hindi man malinaw na higit pa sa sapat ang supply mula sa local na production upang matugunan ang pangangailangan ng ating bansa?” Lacson said in his opening statement at the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the food security crisis.

“Ito ay sa kabila ng umiiral na African Swine Fever (ASF) na nagsimulang nakapasok sa bansa noon pa mang Agosto 2019 na siyang ginawa nilang pangunahing dahilan sa pagkumbinsi kay Presidente Duterte upang pirmahan ang nasabing EO 128,” he added.

The investigation into the food security crisis stemmed from allegations about a kickback scheme in the pork importation process within the Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier denied involvement in the alleged scheme and that an investigation has been launched into the issue.

Agriculture groups to boycott DA’s food security summit

Marje Pelayo   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines —  A number of agricultural groups are planning to boycott the upcoming food security summit to be conducted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) on May 18 and 19.

The groups said their concerns and recommendations have been repeatedly ignored that is why they decided not to attend the summit.

Among the policies they are opposed to is the importation of rice, chicken and more importantly pork with lower tariff.

“Ipipilit (lang) iyong ideology ng import liberalization. So bakit kami pupunta?” stressed United Broilers and Raisers Association (UBRA) president Atty. Bong Inciong.

The Samahan ng Industriyang Agrikultura (SINAG) also noted that their recommendation to have first border protection for testing of imported agricultural food products has yet to be established.

This, they say, is one way to prevent the entry of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country.

“Kaya bakit natin ibo-boycott itong food summit? Dahil nakikita natin eh walang direksyon para sa ating local producers,” noted Rosendo So, president of SINAG.

Hog raisers are also complaining about the unpaid indemnification of hogs affected by the ASF.

The group warned that this could result in another holiday.

“Ipinakikita natin sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon na tayo ay sawang-sawa na at malapit nang dumating sa tingin ko yung food holiday,” argued Nicanor Briones of ProPork.

Amid these complaints, Agriculture Secretary William Dar is encouraging them to participate in the summit so that they can properly air their side.

Dar noted the importance of everyone’s participation especially in a time of pandemic.

“There is now consciousness on the part of every Filipino na ang sektor ng agrikultura ay ganoon kahalaga during this time of health pandemic,” he said.

The Food Security Summit aims to construct policies that will help the country attain food sufficiency. (With reports from Rey Pelayo)

Duterte raises volume of pork imports to 254,210 metric tons

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered an increase in the minimum access volume (MAV) for pork imports to help ensure affordable food and augment the shortage in local supply due to African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

Under Executive Order No. 133, which was signed on May 10 but only made public on Tuesday, Duterte raised the MAV for pork meat this year to 254,210 metric tons (MT), from the current 54,210 MT, “provided that the balance at the end of 2021 shall not be carried over to 2022.”

The minimum access volume approved is lower than the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) initial proposal of 404,210 MT following concerns raised by some senators.

Duterte said the ASF outbreak spread to over 12 regions, including 38 provinces and 437 municipalities, and led to the significant reduction of the country’s swine inventory by 3 million heads or 24.1 percent from 2020 to 2021.

The shortage of pork in the country is estimated to be around 388,790 MT based on data from the DA’s National Livestock Program for the year 2021.

“It is imperative to immediately address the current supply gap in pork meat, to provide consumers with adequate and affordable food, and to lower inflation,” the order read.

In the same order, the president directed the MAV Management Committee to ensure that the allocation of the volume importation would be “fair and open” to all qualified importers of pork meat.

The importation must also be carried out in accordance with the rules and regulations for the implementation of the agricultural MAVs, and other pertinent laws.

The order was issued shortly after Duterte declared a nationwide state of calamity due to the ASF outbreak.

Duterte earlier issued an order lowering pork import tariff rates, which was opposed by some senators.

Duterte declares state of calamity due to ASF outbreak

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a nationwide state of calamity due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak that has significantly reduced the country’s local supply of pork and spiked its prices according to a document released by Malacañang on Tuesday.

Under Proclamation No. 1143 signed by Duterte on May 10, the state of calamity will last for a period of one year beginning this date “unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant.”

“The ASF is responsible for the significant reduction in the country’s swine population by around three million hogs, resulting in more than P100 billion n losses to the local hog sector and allied industries, and leading to the increased retail prices of pork products,” the proclamation read.

“There is an urgent need to address the continued spread of ASF and its adverse impacts to jumpstart 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 added.

The president signed the proclamation upon the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council over the outbreak.

The disease has spread to 12 regions, 46 provinces, 493 cities and municipalities, and 2,671 barangays in the country, the proclamation stated, with new cases continuously being reported despite government interventions.

Duterte said that such declaration will, among others, “afford the national government, and local government units (LGU), ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds, including the Quick Response Fund, in their response efforts to contain the continuing spread of the ASF and restore normalcy in ASF-affected areas.”

Under the proclamation, all government agencies and LGUs are enjoined to render full assistance to and cooperation 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.

Concerned agencies must also address the supply deficit in pork products, reduce retail prices, and jumpstart the rehabilitation of the local hog industry.

Law enforcement agencies, with the support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, are also directed to “undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order in affected areas, as may be necessary.”

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