By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporters
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has approved measures seeking to boost the supply of pork in the country as the domestic hog industry struggles amid the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.
Mr. Duterte placed the Philippines under a state of calamity for one year due to the spread of ASF, Presidential Spokesperson Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing.
In Proclamation No. 1143 signed on May 10, Mr. Duterte said the hog disease has spread to 2,571 barangays in 46 provinces across 12 regions since its presence was first reported in the country in 2019, with new cases being reported despite government’s efforts.
He said the state of calamity may be lifted earlier 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 in losses to the local hog sector and allied industries, and leading to increased retail prices of pork products,” the President said.
The proclamation, made on the advice of a disaster council, will allow the National Government and local government units to utilize their quick response funds and other appropriate budgets to contain the spread of ASF and restore normalcy in affected areas.
“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, address the supply deficit in pork products, reduce retail prices, and jumpstart the rehabilitation of the local hog industry,” Mr. Duterte said.
The country’s agricultural output shrank by an annual 3.3% in the first quarter, as livestock production slumped due to the prolonged ASF outbreak. Hogs, a major contributor to the livestock subsector, saw output decline by 25.8%.
At the same time, Mr. Duterte signed an executive order increasing the minimum access volume (MAV) for pork imports to 254,210 metric tons (MT) from the previous 54,210 MT.
“Iyan po ay bahagi po ng kompromiso sa panig ng ehekutibo at Senado pagdating sa usaping MAV (This is part of the compromise between the Executive and Senate on the MAV issue),” Mr. Roque said.
In Executive Order (EO) No. 133, the President said the shortage of pork for this year is estimated at around 388,790 MT, citing the Agriculture department.
The MAV Management Committee was ordered to “ensure that the allocation of the volume importation is fair and open to all qualified importers of pork meat.”
Mr. Duterte noted Congress has “not acted” on his request to increase the quantity of pork imports.
“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,” he said.
The Senate last month adopted a resolution asking the President to revoke his order temporarily reducing the tariff rates on imported pork products for one year, arguing that the surge in imports could kill the hog industry.
Rosendo O. So, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) chairman, said in a statement on Tuesday that the issuance of EO 133 and Proclamation No. 1143 is “moral victory for the local hog industry.”
“We request the Senate to continue its vigilance by ensuring that those affected by ASF be compensated and the funds to be realigned will go to the rehabilitation of the industry and not spent on purchasing freezers for the importers,” Mr. So said.
“The Bureau of Customs must be alerted immediately on this compromise and be guided on the tariffs that should be collected once these imports arrive,” he added.
Edwin G. Chen, Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines, Inc. President, said in a mobile phone message that the declaration of a state of calamity due to ASF is “long overdue.”
“We are okay with one year. Although it is long overdue, we still welcome the decision. We hope the calamity fund will be given to the affected pork producers and that the process will be transparent. Now the Department of Agriculture (DA) and local government units can use the calamity fund to provide indemnification for affected pork producers,” Mr. Chen said.
Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said the one-year period should be enough to help the hog industry recover.
“The critical thing here is hog repopulation. We should move fast so that the industry can recover… I wish the declaration was earlier. But I am still thankful since there is now basis for the National Government to spend money and provide support for the local hog raisers,” Mr. Pangilinan said at a virtual briefing.
The Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI) said in a separate statement on Tuesday that the state of calamity declaration puts on hold the proposed adjustments in the group’s selling prices due to the higher prices of imported raw material.
“Meat products are major contributors to overall inflation. Thus, we deem it to the best interest of our industry, our consumers and the economy in general to keep prices of our products stable for as long as possible,” Jerome D. Ong, PAMPI vice-president and CEO of CDO Foodsphere, said.
Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) President Jesus C. Cham said he is hoping the increased MAV allocation will be enough to augment hog supply.
“The ASF fire has not been put out and is still burning. The country is still losing production capacity. Should additional MAV be necessary, we hope that the Senate will go along,” Mr. Cham said in a mobile phone message.
“On the reduced minimum access volume for pork, market forces will eventually decide whether or not the volume of 254,210 MT is adequate enough to address the pork shortage,” PAMPI’s Mr. Ong said.
Agriculture Spokesperson Noel O. Reyes confirmed at a virtual briefing on Tuesday that the DA will soon release further details regarding the implementation of the state of calamity.
“The DA will not only be the one shelling out funds for this state of calamity declaration. Funds will also be released by the respective local government units,” Mr. Reyes said.