Govt asked to set price cap on pork, chicken

SEN. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged the executive to consider imposing a price ceiling on pork and chicken products.

The continued rise in pork prices is due to supply shortages brought by the African swine fever (ASF) while chicken prices had been subject to some illegal manipulations by some opportunistic traders.

Organized labor groups have called on the government for protection against the soaring prices of basic and prime commodities amid the existing national economic and health crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Most of our countrymen, especially the minimum wage earners, can no longer afford to buy them,” said the vice chairman of the Senate finance committee in a statement in Filipino.

He asked the government “to subsidize the high cost of goods” to ease the burden of ordinary citizens”.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar told a Laging Handa briefing last Monday that the government was planning to increase the volume of pork imports and augment local pork supply by tripling the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) to keep the meat prices in the country stable. He said what is currently allowed is 54,000 metric tons in a year.

MAV refers to the volume of a specific agricultural commodity, such as pork, which is allowed to be imported with lower tariff rate.

Go has expressed his support for the proposal but added that appropriate legal processes must be observed.

To address the issue on ASF, President Rodrigo Duterte has issued Executive Order (EO) 105, which created the National Task Force on Animal-Borne Diseases.

Go also lauded President Duterte for signing EO 123 modifying the rates of import duty on certain agricultural products under section 1611 of Republic Act (RA) 10863, otherwise known as the “Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.”

The executive order will further maintain the reduced tariff rates on mechanically deboned meat (MDM) of chicken and turkey until the end of next year as a way to help curb hunger and prevent prices of said products from going up amid the ongoing pandemic. MDM is a major ingredient of low-priced meat products largely consumed by ordinary Filipinos.

He, likewise, lauded various measures to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture, which include barangay-based vegetable farming; intensified implementation of the Plant, Plant, Plant program covering crop production, livestock, poultry and aquaculture; urban gardening, such as Gulayan sa Barangay at Paaralan; improved agri-fishery production, processing, marketing and logistical support; sustained implementation of the joint circular on price control; increasing shipments of hogs from ASF-free areas of the country; prize stabilization on pork products; managing the spread of ASF through the Bantay ASF sa Barangay or BABaY; and ongoing swine repopulation program.

Go emphasized that the issue of rising prices must be addressed given the economic ramifications of the current pandemic and their effects on the lives of ordinary Filipinos.

The Associated Labor Union (ALU) asked the Agriculture department and Department of Trade and Industry to level up their protection to consumers, particularly minimum wage earners, against the exorbitant increase in the prices of basic food items.

It said the prices picked up a week leading to the traditional Christmas and New Year celebrations despite the 60-day price freeze imposed by multigovernment agencies task force, from Nov. 18, 2020 to Jan. 17, 2021, on basic and prime
commodities.

ALU National Executive Vice President Gerard Seno said the two agencies must move beyond mere token market inspections and other media photo opportunities in groceries and supermarkets and improve consumer protection by issuing show-cause orders and notices of violations to erring businesses who raise prices right under their noses, the group said.

WITH WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL

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