Press Release
April 12, 2021

Senate Committee of the Whole Hearing on the Food Security Crisis
Senator Francis N. Pangilinan

Thank you, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues. Magandang umaga. And to our resource persons as well. At the outset, allow us to thank Senator Lacson for filing Proposed Senate Resolution No. 685, adopted as Senate Resolution No. 98, which paved the way for the constitution of this Committee of the Whole and to look into the country's food security crisis brought about by the severe outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF) and to adopt policies and measures to curb the reported corruption in the form of "tong-pats" and technical smuggling of poultry and pork products, which if left unabated would result in billions of pesos of revenue losses.

The African Swine Fever outbreak has already cost our hog industry about 56 billion pesos and affected more than 68,000 hog raisers, majority of whom are small backyard famers. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), our total swine inventory as of January 2021 was at 9.72 million heads, which is a 24 percent less from the previous year's level of 12.8 million heads. It has also resulted in severe shortages of pork supply and high prices in many food items.

Sabi nga sa social media, dati, pagka kumain ka ng baboy, tataas ang iyong blood pressure o magkakaroon ka ng high blood. Ngunit ngayon, makita mo lang ang presyo ng baboy sa merkado ay magkaka-high blood ka na.

Isusulong din natin sa pagdinig na ito ang mga hinaing ng ating local hog industry lalong- lalo na ng ating mga backyard hog raisers na siyang lubhang tinamaan ng ASF. We hope to find the answers and justifications from the DA and concerned agencies regarding the government's response to ASF, which are the increase in the minimum access volume (MAV) for pork by 350,000 metric tons on top of the existing 54,000 metric tons, and the drastic reduction of tariffs under EO 128, which the Senate and the local hog industry strongly opposed.

To give our colleagues and the public an idea of the tens of billions of pesos involved in the importation of 350,000 metric tons plus another 54,000 metric tons for a period of one year at a landed cost of three dollars provided by the DA, it is worth 1.2 billion dollars or 58 billion pesos sa loob ng isang taon.

To give us context as to what 58 billion pesos means, when this representation was chairman of the NFA Council in 2014 and 2015, we imported anywhere between 1 to 1.2 million metric tons of rice at the cost of 20 to 25 billion annually. In other words, itong 58 billion pesos ay halos doble o mahigit pa diyan. Doble ang ating pag-i-import ng ating bigas to address our shortfall in rice production. Halos doble, limpak-limpak ang salapi na involved dito. At concern natin is limpak-limpak na salapi din ba ang kumikita sa mga ilang hindi dapat nagsasamantala.

In order to ensure the judicious implementation of the EO, we request the Senate, in the exercise of its oversight function, to require the DA and concerned agencies to submit the following: (1) monthly updates on ASF management and assistance to hog raisers; (2) list of importers and issued import permits; (3) monthly reports on the importation, including the volume and price of pork imported; (4) report on the retail prices of pork in the market; and (5) monthly reports on actions taken on violators of the Price Act and other pertinent laws.

We further hope that this hearing would establish the urgency of the declaration by the President of a state of national calamity, which was the subject of this representation's Proposed Senate Resolution, adopted as Resolution No. 97 by the Senate, to allow the DA and other concerned agencies, including LGUs, to allocate more funds to combat ASF's massive damage to the hog industry, provide the muchneeded assistance to our local hog raisers, and institute biosecurity and disease control measures as well as calibrated repopulation to revive the sector. The funds should be sourced from the NDRRM Fund and the agencies' Quick Response Fund (QRF), among others.

Based on the public statements of the DA, they only have 2.6 billion pesos to address ASF this year. But they need 8.6 billion to be able to address ASF this year. Also, according to public statements of the DA, that recommendation to declare a state of calamity was relayed to Malacañang last March 9. It has been over a month since this recommendation was brought to the attention of Malacañang. The state of calamity declaration must be issued immediately if we are to ensure that our local hog industry will survive this calamity.

Finally, it is also our hope that the Senate, the DA, and other concerned agencies can work together to put a stop to these reported "tong-pats" or kick-back schemes.

Maraming salamat at muli, magandang umaga sa kanilang lahat.

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