PASAY CITY – The Department of Agriculture is under fire for its alleged failure to control the spread of the African swine fever  (ASF) in the country and for the reported loss of P1.3 billion in foregone revenue from imported pork tariff.

The P1.3 billion in foregone revenue could have gone to fighting the African swine fever and also uplifting small farmers and small entrepreneurs of the pork industry, opposition Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said.

The P1.3 billion in foregone revenue was reported from April 9 to June 11 as the Philippines imported at least 76 million kilos of pork under lower tariff on both in-quota and out-quota imports of swine meat.

The policy is contained in Executive Order 134 issued May this year which charges 10 percent for the first three months and 15 percent in the succeeding nine months imports within the minimum access volume (MAV). Those outside the MAV will be slapped 20 and 25 percent, respectively, for the first three and succeeding nine months.

“Hanggang ngayon, mataas pa rin ang presyo ng baboy, P380 per kilo ang liempo. Ang problema ng mataas na presyo ng baboy ay nasa pagsugpo ng African swine fever,” said Pangilinan, who filed Senate Bill 2176 seeking to create a Swine Competitiveness Enhancement Fund from pork import tariffs.

“Kaya rin siguro nauso ang lechon baka ay dahil kasingmahal na ng karneng baboy ang karneng baka,” he added in a statement.

Pangilinan reiterated his earlier position that slashing tariff was not the best solution since it undermines the local pork industry and deprives the government of needed earnings.

“What’s tragic here is when you ask around, no Filipino consumer — whether those who shop in wet markets or supermarkets — will say that they felt the easing of pork prices. So sino ang may ganansya sa polisiyang ito?” he asked.

“We warned from the start that such policy is never a win-win solution but a losing proposition to the government, the local industry, and the consumers,” Pangilinan said.

Officials said the lower tariff aims to arrest the spiraling pork prices due to the lack of supply as an effect of the African swine fever that decimated a big portion of the local swine industry.

But Pangilinan said consumers continue to complain of high pork prices, especially in wet markets.

“Mataas pa rin ang presyo ng baboy, at nitong huli pati na rin ng isda. The lowering of pork prices was not felt by our people. What is very evident based in government data are the revenues we did not earn because of the slashed import duties,” he said.

With lower revenues, Pangilinan said, the government will have less money to augment programs for the local hog raisers who badly need support to rise from the onslaught of ASF and to be competitive against imported pork.

The farmer-senator said the Senate will continue to keep watch on developments and review the policy when needed to make it more responsive to the local industry and consumers.

Malacañang earlier heeded Pangilinan’s call to declare a state of calamity to allow government to augment the funds of the Department of Agriculture for calamity relief and rehabilitation, as well as provide indemnity funds for hog farmers and additional funding for biosafety measures.

He also proposed that affected hog raisers be given cash-for-work opportunities to help them get back on their feet.