Press Release
March 16, 2021

Senate Resolution No. 676
Urging the President to Declare a State of National Calamity Due to the Impact of ASF
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto
15 March 2021

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

Sabi nga po ng isa kong kaibigan, we Filipinos don't say it with flowers, we say 'Congratulechon!'

So whether it is a party to celebrate a birthday, the passing of a board exam, a despedida or bienvenida, the roasted pig around which attendees gather for the mandatory groupfie takes the center stage.

Although we love our beer with chicharon, and our humba with Lipitor, our annual per capita pork consumption is small at 20.5 kilos as compared to other countries.

This comes up to a daily 56 grams, or about 1/20th of a kilo a day.

It is a piglet compared to the hogzilla serving and appetite of Americans and Europeans.

Kahit na po one-fourth of the volume of pork we eat are offals and innards--yung ginagawang bopis at isaw, because we Pinoys love our pigs from snout to tail--malayo pa rin tayo sa kanila.

Although we do not consume pork in an industrial scale, our farmers are producing enough to meet demand, while employing millions, in a value chain extending from feed mills to roasting pits.

Last year, 2.142 million metric tons or 2.142 billion kilos ang total national hog production. Halos 150,000 metric tons ang ibinaba mula 2019.

But to partly plug the gap in supply, we have been a pork-importing nation: 256,000 metric tons last year, and 320,991 in 2019.

Well, those are the official numbers of the Bureau of Customs, which is akin to asking the blind how many shots a team has scored in a basketball game.

We, as a nation, are also totally blind on how ASF had passed through our ports and borders.

The country is supposed to be an archipelago surrounded by a natural moat without land crossings. Yet the deadly virus still managed to seep through our quarantine curtain.

As a result, 4.7 million hogs ended six feet under, and prices of pork jumped to historic highs.

But it is wrong to limit the casualty count to pigs. People are victims, too. Behind every mass culling in a farm is a family brought to its knees.

This mass slaughter of infected animals has led to the bankruptcy of farmers, who've been hit with a double whammy of two viruses: COVID, that threatens their lives and what they call as the COPIG that has killed their stocks.

And as expected in the midst of this landscape of destruction, many cures have been prescribed.

And like treatments, some are of doubtful therapeutic potency.

One is the opening of the floodgates of imports, at lower tariff rates. The double dose "mas marami, mas mura" formula.

Ang MAV, itataas to 404 thousand metrics tons, supersized eight-fold. And the entrance fee, the tariff rates, will be cut from 30 percent to 5 percent if within the quota, and from 40 percent to 15 percent if beyond the quota.

Parang nag-toll fee holiday sa expressway, para sa malalaking trak.

But will this be the flood that will drown ASF survivors, the last hogs standing? Won't this be the classic case of 'after a tragedy comes the deluge'?

Sabi nga ng isang Batanguenong magbababoy: "Pagkatapos nilang papasukin ang ASF, ang gamot naman nila ay papasukin ang maraming karneng baboy? Ay, magaling!"

My fear, Mr. President, my dear colleagues, is that the twin moves might make the ASF virus more viral. This is the bureaucratic turbocharging of a lethal pathogen.

The fear of many is that this will be a death knell of an industry that is fighting for dear life, that when the ASF is finally defeated, there is no industry left that can rise from the ruins.

Yung binabalak po kasi na 400,000 metric tons na importation ay katumbas ng combined production ng anim na rehiyon: Ilocos, CAR, Cagayan Valley, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Region, at CARAGA.

So, Mr. President, I support the urgent message this resolution conveys: freeze the tariff rates and the MAV, and infuse a more robust government response through the declaration placing the country's swine industry under a state of calamity.

Ang nagiging side effect po kasi ng ASF sa baboy ay ang ADD - ASF Deficiency Disorder - sa tao, sa burokrasya.

To fight this, what we need is a declaration of war signed by the President that makes him the commander-in-chief in our campaign to wipe out the ASF.

The words in this resolution amplify the death rattle of our swine industry. We are speaking in behalf of farmers whose grief has choked from making their hurts known.

May kasabihan po na 'the wheel that squeaks gets the oil, or the pig that squeals gets the feed'. Kaya nga lang, these once bustling, noisy places are enveloped in funereal silence.

It is on behalf of these people, by articulating what they want, that I am voting yes to this resolution.

In closing, allow me to further explain my position, before troll farms twist it. I am not calling for a 100 percent ban on meat imports, and that when the supply situation worsens, when high prices harm consumers, I will be open to the recalibration of the government policy .

Thank you, Mr. President.

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