According to the local hog industry and experts, only a small group of pork importers would earn at least P60 billion owing to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 128, which would lower pork importation tariffs and increase the maximum access volume (MAV) from 54,000 metric tons (MT) to 400,000 MT.
In an inquiry of the Senate committee of the whole on purported corruption in pork imports, agriculture and food committee chair Sen. Cynthia Villar claimed that there was a vested interest group that stood to make a great profit from the lowering of tariffs and MAV increase.
Present at the hearing was finance secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who defended the EO as a means to curb rising pork prices.
“It is because of shortage, and bringing in more supply would stabilize and bring down the price of pork, and therefore, the inflation rate,” he said.
He added that this year’s high prices of meat has upped food inflation and that while the EO looked to be a “painful solution” costing the government P13.68 billion in lost revenues, it would in fact cut pork prices, saving consumers an estimated P67.38 billion.
Yet some senators remain unconvinced.
Asked by Senate President Vicente Sotto III why the MAV’s increase was raised to 400,000 MT instead of 100,000 MT as proposed by the hog industry and Department of Agriculture experts, Dominguez replied that it was due to demand. “Believe me, if I were an importer, why would I bring in pork if I cannot sell it? Trust the market, the market will determine the price,” he said.
Villar said: “There’s always a cartel in the Philippine marketplace. Do not underestimate the cartel of importers. Even if the price is low—and they all know each other—they will control the price.”
She continued: “They have long been importing and selling pork, why have they not reduced the price? It’s not just about supply and demand.”
Villar and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who filed separate resolutions for this hearing, said that the DA had favored only the same pool of 10 merchants when issuing import permits. However, upon looking into these companies’ backgrounds, the real owners could not be found.