Duterte stands by decision to lower tariffs on imported pork products

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BASIC COMMODITIES PRICES UP / JANUARY 19, 2021 Vendors at the wet market section of Pasig Mega Market sell few poultry and pork meat on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 as prices soar due to the effect of Asian Swine Fever (ASF) and dwindling supply of chicken as poultry farms have gone bankrupt last year. INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

President Rodrigo Duterte has stood by his decision to impose a temporary reduction on tariff rates on imported pork products, Malacañang said Tuesday.

The move, according to the government’s economic managers, will benefit consumers as the shortage of local pork supply can result in price spikes of the commodity.

In an online press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte had decided to back the recommendation of his economic team and the Department of Agriculture (DA) to lower pork tariffs.

The decision was to raise pork imports to about 400,000 metric tons (MT) this year to augment pork supplies in the country, Roque said.

The President said this would, number one, address the lack of supply that triggered the rise in the prices of pork products in the markets,” he said in Filipino.

Duterte made the latest move despite senators’ appeal to revoke his Executive Order (EO) 128, which temporarily modifies the rates on import duty on fresh, chilled, or frozen meat of swine.

Roque said lowering pork tariffs would also help tame the country’s inflation rate since meat is the top contributor to overall inflation.

He noted that the temporary pork tariff reduction could ease the inflation rate by 3.8 percent from 4.2 percent recorded in March this year.

“It’s important to bring down pork prices as soon as possible because it contributes to higher inflation rate,” Roque said.

In a pre-recorded meeting with Cabinet officials on Monday, Duterte expressed willingness to revoke EO 128 as soon as there is an increase in the country’s domestic pork supply.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told Duterte during the meeting that reducing pork tariffs would help address the deficiency in supply and bring down the country’s inflation rate.

While the President understands the senators’ sentiment, he believes that lowering tariff rates on pork products would help stabilize pork prices in the local markets, Roque said.

Roque said the reduction in pork tariffs is merely temporary.

Duterte on April 7 inked EO 128, reducing the tariff rate on pork imports within the MAV to 5 percent for the first three months upon the effectivity of the order and to 10 percent for the next nine months from the current rate of 30 percent.

On the other hand, pork imports outside MAV were also reduced with a lower tariff of 15 percent for the first three months and 20 percent for the succeeding nine months from the current rate of 40 percent, according to the EO.

Roque, however, acknowledged that Congress has the power to overturn Duterte’s decision.

He reiterated that the executive branch will respect the senators’ decision in case they revoke Duterte’s EO 128.

The Senate Committee of the Whole on April 15 adopted a resolution asking Duterte to revoke EO 128, saying that the order might kill the local hog industry.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier cited Section 1608(f) of Republic Act 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act which states that “the power herein delegated to the President may be withdrawn or terminated by Congress through a joint resolution.”

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