The latest bombshell of Sen. Panfilo Lacson that there is, and has been, rampant overpricing or “tongpats” (street lingo for “patong”) in pork importations is serious enough to warrant an investigation by the Senate committee of the whole.
According to Lacson, the proposal by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to increase the volume of imported pork products and reduce tariffs with the African swine fever as a smokescreen would result in as much as P6 billion in kickbacks that would end up in the pockets of unscrupulous DA officials.
Citing unnamed sources, which obviously come from the hog industry, Lacson said that a syndicate inside the DA is intent in increasing its payoff or “tongpats” from the proposed increase in the minimum access volume (MAV) for imported pork to as much as 400,000 metric tons, and the reduction in tariffs to as low as 5 percent.
With DA’s proposal to increase the maximum volume of imported meat from 54,000 kilos to 400,000, the syndicate could “easily” earn as much as P6 billion a year, Lacson said.
We hope that the maverick senator is not engaged in another grandstanding in aid of his reported plan to run for the presidency next year. He should come up with a smoking gun and a paper trail to pinpoint those responsible, prosecute them and send them to jail.
What we do not want to happen is that some so-called whistle blowers with shrouded faces would appear in the Senate and slander officials and get away with it because they have parliamentary immunity.
We are afraid that after all the hullabaloo and the noise that accompany all congressional probes, nothing will come out of it.
We have always said, and we will say it again, that graft is inherent in every importation, be it in rice or pork. Importation of agriculture produce would always redound to the suffering of our farmers in the case of rice imports and the hog raisers in pork imports.
Thus, we fully support a proposed resolution asking Malacañang to declare a public emergency to allow the DA to realign funds to address ASF infestation, mainly in the form of fund assistance to affected hog growers.
Subsidy or low-interest loans provided by the government to hog raisers are the only viable solutions to the current pork crisis, not importation. We have already seen the suffering of our farmers due to rice importation and yet now we also want our hog raisers to suffer?