Senator Grace Poe on Wednesday appealed to the executive to heed the pleas of rice farmers and livestock raisers for support by not lowering tariffs on rice and pork that will “open the floodgates for imports and further discourage local production.”
“African swine fever (ASF) wiped out pig farms in most of Luzon with big conglomerates now stepping back. How will local production recover if we flood the market with imports without the necessary assurance that pork and pork products that are sold in the market are free of the disease?” she said.
The senator scored the Department of Agriculture (DA) for its “inept handling” of ASF that has now reached the Visayas, and for not hearing out its constituents whom it should be advocating for.
“It was the DA that petitioned the Tariff Commission (TC) to lower tariffs on pork and rice despite the objections and the strong arguments against it from hog raisers and rice farmers,” Poe said.
“After failing to hear them out, the DA didn’t even have the research to support the lowering of tariffs or explain its proposal during the hearings,” she said.
The TC conducted separate hearings on the lowering of tariffs on pork and rice imports on February 4.
The DA had no presentation that would explain why tariffs should be lowered, not even for rice. It was the Department of Finance (DOF) that attempted to justify why tariffs on rice imports ought to be lowered.
“It is unsettling to see the DOF advocating a cut in tariffs especially now when it has been relying on borrowings for its spending as tax collection is down,” Poe said.
“Hog raisers have been begging to keep the existing tariff structure as lowering it will only ensure bigger profits for importers and lower collection for government. It is baffling to see both the DA and the DOF pushing for moves contrary to their mandates,” she said.