SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for signing Executive Order No. 123 modifying the rates of import duty on certain agricultural products under section 1611 of the Republic Act No. 10863, otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
The EO will further maintain the reduced tariff rates on mechanically deboned meat (MDM) of chicken and turkey until next year as a way to help curb hunger and prevent prices of said products from going up amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is most welcome and I support it. This will have a huge impact on keeping prices low by keeping the tariffs low and preventing any inflationary effect,” Go said.
“Malaki ang maitutulong nito sa taumbayan, lalo na sa mga mahihirap nating kababayan sa gitna ng krisis na ating hinaharap. Maraming nawalan ng trabaho at kabuhayan. Maraming industriya ang nangangailangan ng tulong para makabangon. Gawin natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya para pagaanin ang pinapasan ng ating mga kababayan,” he added.
Duterte, in 2017, temporarily reduced the tariff rates on said products from 30%-40% to 5% via Executive Order No. 23 (s. 2017) as a concession to trading partners for letting the country extend the quota on rice imports to protect Filipino farmers.
Under the earlier EO No. 23, the tariff rates will revert to their original Most Favored Nation (MFN) rates on July 1, 2020, or until such time that a law amending provisions on rice tariffication in Republic Act No. 8178 takes effect, whichever comes first.
Due to the signing of Republic Act No. 11203 in February 2020 which lifts rice import quotas and imposing tariffs, the reduced tariff rates reverted to their original MFN rates.
Duterte, based on the recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority, once again maintained the reduced tariff rates through EO No. 82 until December 31, 2020, to keep the inflation rate within target.
The recently signed EO No. 123 will, once more, retain the reduced tariff rate at 5% on MDM of chicken and turkey until December 31, 2022.
Meanwhile, Go said that government must prioritize three important aspects towards recovery: (1) address hunger; (2) acquire sufficient, safe and effective vaccines for all Filipinos with utmost priority to poor and vulnerable sectors as well as frontliners; (3) and provide more economic opportunities through jobs and other forms of livelihood.
“Ipaglalaban po natin ang tatlong importanteng mga adhikain na ito sa loob at labas ng Senado — ang pagsugpo sa gutom; ang pagkakaroon ng sapat, ligtas, at epektibong bakuna; at ang pagpapalakas ng ekonomiya at kabuhayan ng bawat Pilipino,” he said.
“Tulad nga ng sabi ng Pangulo, no one should be left behind towards recovery,” he added.
Go emphasized that MDM is a major component of low-priced meat products commonly purchased by ordinary Filipinos. Keeping these affordable will help address hunger and mitigate poverty.
“Kung mapapanatili natin ang mas mababang taripa sa mga produktong ito, maiiwasan ang pagtaas sa presyo ng mga pagkain na madalas binibili ng mga ordinaryong Pilipino,” he said.
In a November 2020 survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations, it was revealed that an estimated four million families reported involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months prior to the study. The number, though, is lower than the previous data gathered by SWS in September where some 7.6 million reported involuntary hunger due to the pandemic.
“Palagi nating unahin ang buhay at kapakanan ng mga ordinaryong Pilipino. Huwag po kayo mawalan ng pag-asa dahil hindi kayo pabababayaan ng gobyernong palaging nagmamalasakit sa inyo,” he said.
“Ginagawa po namin ang lahat para malampasan ang krisis na ito at makabangon tayo muli bilang isang nagkakaisa at mas matatag na bansa,” Go added.
Moreover, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez also said that the EO was a recommendation of the Department of Trade and Industry and NEDA, together with other agencies in the NEDA Board Committee on Tariff and Related Matters, such as the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Finance, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, among others.
Secretary Lopez said that this move will keep the tariff rates on MDM to 5% instead of supposedly increasing to 40% this 2021.
“If the tariff rates were not maintained at 5%, this can be costly to processed meat manufacturers, and this can lead to unwanted price increases. These products are what the majority of consumers buy. Will lead surely to inflation of basic goods,” Lopez added.