New agreement on pork imports to benefit consumers — Sotto

Marje Pelayo   •   May 7, 2021   •   383

MANILA, Philippines – Senators and government economic managers have agreed to propose an amendment to the Executive Order 128 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

Based on what both sides have agreed upon, import tariffs on in-quota on pork will be reduced to 15% provided it is within the minimum access volume (MAV) on the first three months of implementation.

After three months, it will be increased to 20% for the succeeding months.

Meanwhile, the initial recommendation of 400,000 metric tons for minimum access volume (MAV) will be reduced to 254, 000 metric tons.

Sotto believes this will benefit the economy, the local hog raisers and most importantly, the consumers.

“The swine industry has many allied industries like corn, crops, transportation. Kaya hindi porke hindi ka kumakain ng pork ay wala kang kinalaman dito. May kinalaman ka dito kapag tinamaan ka ng inflation na mabigat,” Sotto said.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee of the Whole will soon release its committee report on the three hearings they conducted.

The reports are expected to contain recommendations on the possible amendments in EO 128 to prevent technical smuggling of pork imports and to clarify the role of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the National Meat Inspection Sevice (NMIS) for that matter.

“The committee report will contain the content of the proceedings and what we feel should be legislated or if not, the executive department should work on,” Sotto said.

Sotto added that the Senate should be informed right away once the new EO is released. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senate on total closure from January 10 to 16 – Sotto

Robie de Guzman   •   January 7, 2022

MANILA, Philippines ­– The Senate will be closed for a week amid rising COVID-19 infections among its employees, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Friday.

Citing a report from the Senate Medical Team, Sotto said there are now 46 active COVID positive cases in the upper chamber while 175 employees are under quarantine due to exposure and manifestation of symptoms.

Sotto said these employees are awaiting the result of their COVID-19 swab test.

He also mentioned that five staff of the Medical Bureau are under quarantine, which depleted their workforce and find it hard to attend to the needs of the infected employees.

“Medical has sent a Memo recommending 7 days of total closure of the Senate from January 10 (Monday) to  January 16 (Sunday),” he told reporters.

“They will conduct thorough disinfection and this will lessen contact among employees to prevent or slow down virus transmission,” he added.

Sotto said total closure means no one will be allowed to enter the Senate premises except for those involved in the disinfection process to be conducted on January 8 and January 15.

The House of Representatives earlier announced it has extended the lockdown in its offices until January 16, also due to increasing COVID-19 cases.


Senate to launch probe on smuggling of agri products

Maris Federez   •   December 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Committee of the Whole is set to launch an investigation on the alleged large-scale smuggling of agricultural products in the country on December 14.

This is after Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s privilege speech in the plenary where he talked about the ongoing corruption in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and rampant incidents of smuggling that affect farmers and the agricultural sector.

Sotto said that based on the BOC’s press releases, it has conducted 25 anti-smuggling operations from May to November this year that amounted close to Php1 billion.

Sotto said, however, these reports do not match the actual number of cases the agency files in court.

“If we are to base the efficacy of our fight against smuggling on the press releases of the Bureau of Customs, it seems like we are on top of the issue. But the big problem is, mukhang hangang PR lang talaga ang pagsugpo sa agricultural products smuggling,” Sotto said.

The BOC, in response, acknowledged Sotto’s pointing out of the discrepancy in their records.

BOC spokesperson Atty. Vincent Maronilla said they are ready to face any investigation that will shed light on the issues against their anti-agricultural smuggling efforts.

“We’re thankful to Sen. Sotto for bringing this concern of some disconnect in our records sa PRs namin and our records of cases filed,” Maronilla said.

“We’re open to any inquiry so we can thresh out whatever inconsistencies in our record or whatever clarifications might be needed in terms of our anti-agriculture smuggling efforts,” he added.

He also assured that they will file cases against whoever will be involved in smuggling.

“Lahat ng may involvement kinakasuhan namin. At the least pinasasagot sila kung may makitang pagkukulang on their part,” the BOC official said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Defense chief Lorenzana tests positive for COVID-19 anew

Robie de Guzman   •   November 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed on Wednesday that he has again contracted COVID-19.

In a message to reporters, Lorenzana said he was informed of his test result earlier in the day but he has not manifested any symptoms.

He said he is fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

“This morning I got the result of my swab test yesterday afternoon after the Senate hearing. I am asymptomatic,” he said.

“Yes, I am fully vaxxed. I’ll observe myself for several days after that I’ll have another swab,” he added.

The Defense chief first tested positive for COVID-19 in April and recovered.

Lorenzana took a swab test after undergoing screening for COVID-19 on Tuesday when he physically attended a Senate hearing for his department’s budget for 2022.

With this development, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said they might suspend the budget deliberations on Thursday to give way for the testing of exposed Senate staff.

Lorenzana had interactions with several senators during the session. Among those who was exposed to him were Senators Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino.

Senators and staff who had contact with Lorenzana have been asked to undergo quarantine and get tested after five days.


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