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State of calamity declaration to protect ASF-free areas—solon

THE declaration of a State of Calamity due to African swine fever (ASF) will not only free up badly needed funds in order for local hog raisers to address the spread of the “Covid of pigs,” but will also help the industry recover.

Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said on Sunday that the declaration will protect ASF-unaffected areas and free interest rates on hog raisers’ loans. Pangilinan, who has raised in a Senate Resolution the effects of ASF and massive pork importation, and urged the declaration of a State of Calamity, also said that such an executive declaration may be in the works.

“Ang balita ko ay pino-proseso na raw ’yung State of National Calamity declaration,” he said in a media interview.

When asked about changes in Executive Order 128 that lowers the tariffs and increases the minimum access volume (MAV) allowed by the World Trade Organization, Pangilinan said: “Ang susunod na kinakailangang gawin ay tiyakin at bantayan yung pag-implementa at nang hindi abusuhin, nang hindi ito mauwi sa hindi rin bababa ang  presyo ng karneng baboy. Ito naman ’yung layunin dito na bumaba ang presyo ng baboy sa merkado, magkaroon ng sapat na suplay.”

Pangilinan, who believes that agriculture is a sustainable driver of economic growth, also supports proposals to review the MAV system on other food imports such as fruits, fish, and other agricultural products.

“Chances are, lahat ’yan across the board din ang mahiwagang mga pangyayari, ‘ika nga, na dapat bantayan.”

Hog raisers’ lament

With the threat of ASF knocking at their doorstep, hog raisers from Visayas and Mindanao expressed support for Pangilinan’s call for a declaration of State of Calamity due to ASF in an online dialogue held Thursday.

“Ang sa atin sana ay ang specific need namin dito ay madagdagan dapat ang gawin ng gobyerno para ma-proteksyunan ’yung mga areas na hindi pa tinatamaan. Kung tatamaan talaga tayo, babahain tayo [ng imported]. Mawawala talaga ang industry,” said Nonon Tambago, chairman of the Central Visayas Pork Producers.

The group also expressed concerns about pork landing in their areas, which are almost ASF-free and are therefore sufficient in terms of supply.

Pangilinan said he would demand from DA “strict monitoring” of the imports through a resolution to create a sub-committee within the department that would submit monthly reports on the status of the importations, as well as the status of their implementation of the campaign against ASF.

Ang i-introduce ko rin sa resumption ng hearing ng Senado ay kung papaano natin babantayan ang importation nung karne para hindi ito aabusuhin, hindi ito gagawing kasangkapan para may kumita o ma-cartelize, at mababantayan natin,” he said.

Last month, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar assured members of the House of Representatives the arrival of the pork imports will be closely “calibrated” to avoid upending the market and hurting local producers.

During a joint hearing of House Committee on Agriculture and Food and House Committee on Trade and Industry, Dar reiterated that EO 128 would not “kill” the Philippine hog industry.

“Our ultimate goal is really the imports will lower the prices of pork and tame inflation. We would like to assure that calibrated arrival of said imports will be properly managed,” he said.

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