MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) maintains that no officials are involved in the alleged “tong-pats” or price padding on pork imports by PHP5 to PHP7 per kilo in the DA.
“On my personal and official capacity as secretary of the DA, the undersigned is one with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in the strict observance of good governance and no corruption in government, and will never allow any corrupt practice under his stead and leadership,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar explained in a Senate hearing on Monday.
DA said the Philippines imports agricultural commodities, including pork and other pork products, under the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme, which is part of the country’s commitment under the World Trade Organization (WTO) to facilitate trade among WTO member countries.
The country is allowed to import 54,000 metric tons (MT) of pork yearly under the MAV with an in-quota tariff of 30 percent. Beyond said volume or out-quota, imports are levied with a higher tariff of 40 percent, he added.
Dar said allocating the MAV to qualified importers or licensees adheres to strict regulations and guidelines, ensuring a transparent and non-discretionary systematic distribution procedure.
“The allocation is done through a raffle. The initial MAV allotment this year has long been set and fixed. Yearly or mid-year allocation may be conducted depending on the pooled amount of allocations that were either surrendered or automatically deducted as penalty for regular licensees that failed to meet the 70 percent utilization requirement within the allowable period of time,” he said.
DA spokesperson Noel Reyes told Philippine News Agency that according to their internal investigations, there was no evidence or proof that such a scheme among the DA officials exists.
In March 2021, Senator Panfilo Lacson proposed the probe following an informant in his discretion said that a “syndicate” is at work profiting as much as PHP6 billion from the crisis brought by the spread of African swine fever (ASF).
The ASF has dwindled by more than three million heads, from 12.7 million in January 2020 to 9.7 million in January 2021, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
The DA’s national livestock program directorate projected that the country would have a supply deficit of 388,563 MT of pork, based on a supply estimate of 1,229,702 MT against a total demand of 1,618,355 MT.
The MAV advisory committee, composed of various stakeholders, recommended to the inter-agency MAV management committee that the MAV be increased this year to 400,000 MT.
Hence, increasing pork imports under the in-quota MAV was deemed necessary.
“It is a temporary measure to be implemented for only one year, under strict monitoring and supervision by the inter-agency MAV Management Committee,” Dar explained.
The DA has already sounded the alarm for a national emergency on low supply of pork in the market while it is working on repopulating hogs as recovery plan for the industry.
It has also signed partnerships with private firms to upgrade the biosecurity measures of backyard and commercial hog raisers. (PNA)