President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire nation under state of calamity for one year due to African swine fever (ASF) outbreak that has crippled the domestic hog industry, Malacanang said Tuesday.
At the same time, Duterte signed an executive order raising the minimum access volume (MAV) for pork imports from 54,210 metric tons to 254,210 MT to ensure adequate supply and affordable meat products in the country.
But the import volume for pork products approved by the President was lower than the Department of Agriculture’s original proposal of 404,210 metric tons following concerns raised by senators.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the ASF epidemic had led to billions worth of losses to the local hog industry and increased prices of pork products.
Through Proclamation 1143 signed on Monday, Duterte said the year-long state of calamity could be lifted or extended as circumstances warrant.
Duterte said 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 proclamation will give the national government and local government units (LGUs) 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.
Duterte also ordered the MAV management committee to ensure allocation of the volume importation is “fair and open” to all qualified importers of pork meat.
“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 EO stated.
Last month, the President issued EO 128 lowering the import tariff for fresh, chilled, or frozen pork at 5 percent for the first three months under the minimum access volume quota, 10 percent for the 4th to 12th month. After 12 months, it will return to the 30 percent tariff rate.
The rates for pork imports beyond the quota will be reduced by 15 percent for the first three months, 20 percent for the 4th to 12 months. The rate will be back to 40 percent after a year.
Meanwhile, pork producers welcomed Duterte's declaration, said ProPork president Edwin Chen, adding the new directive was long overdue and the group would like to see the calamity fund given to the affected pork producers in full transparency.
“ASF first hit us when Secretary William Dar assumed office. He should have asked the President to declare a state of calamity during that time. If there was an earlier declaration, then the DA and LGUs can utilize the calamity fund to indemnify affected pork producers,” he said.
Had the ASF outbreak been contained earlier, it could have averted the staggering loss of over P70 billion to the industry, Chen said.
From August 2019 to May 2021, about 25 percent of the industry’s hogs fell prey to ASF.
ProPork already called for the creation and release of an indemnification fund to affected pork producers at P10,000 per head.
In a related development, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) assured the government of its support to further reduce the rate of inflation during the second quarter despite sharp increases in the cost of producing processed meat products during the past 6 months.
“We are aware that the President’s declaration of a state of calamity due to ASF effectively freezes proposed adjustments in our selling prices in spite of a three-fold increase in the prices of imported raw material. Nevertheless, we will need to tighten our belts further until we can get relief by the middle of this year just to help ensure that inflation will not rise any further,” the group said in a statement.
For his part, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said extra funds might now be accessed to help hog raisers recover from the ASF.
The former Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agriculture Modernization cited the case of the coconut infestation dubbed cocolisap in 2014 when the government was able to contain the infestation within six months of the State of Calamity declaration.
Senator Joel Villanueva said the Department of Agriculture should now focus on concrete measures to eradicate the disease that has severely crippled the local hog industry.
“Now the real work begins," said Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee.