"The off-and-on government action on this front has now brought us the sorry mess we are in."
There is no question that the pandemic has engendered a lot of changes in our way of life globally and across the board – from relations among nations and peoples to those between sectors and communities and, of course, among friends and within families. Necessarily, these changes have likewise brought about loads of rethinking in the manner by which we face challenges and resolve issues and problems. In this regard, the matter of the much anticipated vaccine roll out and the controversial “pork emergency” orders are instructive.
For some time now, the fast and reliable roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine across sectors and communities was considered key to the lowering of quarantine restrictions. Somewhere along the way, as the vaccination plan got snagged for reasons which have yet to be fully clarified, the move to downgrade restrictions gained currency as (big) business groups and their friends in government made noises about the dangers of continuing economic sluggishness. Lives matter but livelihood matters too – so was the principal cry by a growing number of sectors and influencers including a majority of the local chief executives in Metro Manila. Such push was on the verge of realization when President Duterte advised that downgrading can wait until the vaccine rollout gets going.
In a late-night announcement, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in no uncertain terms that the President valued lives more than livelihoods. At least at this point, perhaps recognizing the dangers of rushing into a less restrictive regime in the face of concerns over virus mutations and the seriousness of the after effects of vaccination.
Said Roque: “The Chief Executive recognizes the importance of reopening the economy and its impact on people’s livelihoods. However, the President gives a higher to public health and safety.”
Th Palace’s announcement was not surprising. From Day One of the pandemic hitting our shores, the Chief Executive has always maintained that people’s lives mattered more to him than slowing of the economy and even the loss of jobs. After all, as the truism goes, health is wealth. Economic reopening in the manner earlier contemplated by the business groups may amount to nothing if the infection rate spikes given our spotty health systems’ preparedness and, now, the non-resolution of the issues hampering the vaccine roll out. Given these seemingly intractable issues, we need to do lots of rethinking. Rushing things may bring more problems than we can handle at this point.
Which is precisely the situation as far as the “pork emergency” conundrum we are presently experiencing. For more than a year now, the increasingly challenged situation of our hog raisers brought about in the main by our inability to stop the spread of the ASF remained fully addressed. The off-and-on government action on this front has now brought us the sorry mess we are in. Not only has the ASF problem remained; it has spread across the islands bringing more havoc to an already bloodied industry. Instead of addressing the original problem of ASF and related production woes, the agriculture department contrived a “pork emergency” with all the problems the same has engendered.
Not only has the local industry been left to its own devices to combat ASF and related problems of higher priced import, spotty processing facilities and logistical support, this dire situation has now been turned upside down to incentivize and bring in more imports. Instead of enhancing our local production efforts the agriculture department has imposed deadlier combinations bringing our hog raisers to the brink: Price controls, increased importation, lower tariffs and, yes, possibly better financing terms from the government banks.
Probably realizing the slippery slope the latest initiatives has brought us into, the agriculture department is now thinking of lifting price controls (after vendors declared pork holidays two weeks in a row) and is reportedly rethinking its so-called “ hog repopulation program” to promote local industry not importation and thereby the growth of producers abroad. It is hoped that this rethinking will come to fruition soon before our local hog industry goes bust. The sooner, the better.