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‘TONGPATS’: Lacson bares multi-billion peso pork import anomaly


BY MARIO B. CASAYURAN


Senator Panfilo M. Lacson on Monday bared the alleged existence of multi-billion-peso anomaly in the importation of pork.

In Senate’s plenary session, Lacson learned from the Department of Agriculture (DA) that a group will be collecting P5 to P7 “tongpats” for every kilo of imported pork.

The DA had wanted to import 400,000 kilos of pork despite objections from local hog raisers.

This as the Senate formally asked President Duterte to declare a state of calamity due to the African Swine Flu (ASF) outbreak that has hit the country’s hog industry since 2019 and is causing pork shortages.

Lacson urged the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) to unilaterally investigate plans to reduce the current “high” tariff rates that would increase the profits of pork importers.

Importers were reportedly willing to give “grease money” because they would be profiting P44.64 for every kilo of pork imported and sold at P284 per kilo.

Senators Cynthia A. Villar, chairwoman of the Senate agriculture and food committee, and Francis “Kiko’’ Pangilinan joined Lacson in asking the President not to further increase the volume of pork to be imported and not to reduce the tariff of pork imports.

In her recent public hearings, Villar said importers still make money even under the current 30 to 40 percent tariff level.

There are reports of moves to reduce them to a low of 10 percent. A Maximum Access Volume (MAV) of pork importation is 54 million kilos.

If the DA’s plan to import 400 million kilos of pork is approved and the tariff is reduced to as low as five to 10 percent, the grease money for DA insiders would double.

“This means DA insiders would pocket some P4 billion to P6 billion,” Lacson said.

In his speech at the Senate regular session, Lacson said he has received “disturbing information from a highly placed source who has knowledge of the modus operandi within the agency that at present rates of 30 percent tariff or in quota hog importation and 40 percent for off-quota importation, may umiiral na kalakalan na tongpats or SOP of P5 to P7 per kilo.”

Pangilinan, a former presidential consultant on agriculture during the administration of former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, said he has been hearing of these questionable activities at the DA.

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Written by Tempo Desk

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