By Kevin Joshua G. Rebultan
In light of the government’s proposed anti-inflation measures, which include cutting the agriculture tariff, the five-coalition Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA) voiced its strong opposition. They believe it will lead to the death of agricultural industries and will cause massive unemployment and poverty.
The AFA’s disapproval is a protest against the Socioeconomic Planning Secretary of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Ernesto Peña’s recent announcement. He disclosed that the President is set to sign an executive order, which will reduce tariffs on imported agricultural products.
Speaking at a press conference on August 10, in Quezon City, Former Trade Undersecretary Ernesto Ordoñez said that abolishing the 40 percent poultry tariff and the 35 to 40 percent hog tariff will not necessarily address the inflation. It might not increase on the prices of goods and services, either.
“Often, when you cut the price, the traders go to the retailers, and the retailers keep the price,” Ordoñez says.
AFA also opposes the implementation of zero tariff in the aquaculture industry, arguing that only fish importers and wholesale traders are likely to benefit from it. The alliance further contends that instead of supporting foreign growers and traders through tax-free importation, the government should allocate more budget for local fishfolk to increase local production.
Cutting the agriculture tariffs is not the only anti-inflation measure that the President’s economic advisers—including Former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other House leaders—have proposed. There has also been an intent to reduce the fuel cost, which aims to remove the two percent blend of Coconut Methyl Ester (CME) called B2 to bring down the current pump price from P45 to P44.70/liter.
“The net price of one percent CME today is only 15 centavos, and two percent is just 30 centavos. The reduction in fuel pump price will only be 0.66 percent,” the group says, adding that it will have insignificant effect in the reduction of fuel prices.
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Alternative solutions and recommendations
On the proposed tariff cut on imported agriculture products, Pork Producers Federation president Edwin Chen recommended that the Department of Agriculture should agree with stakeholders on suggested retail prices (SRPs), posting of retail prices, complying with the Price Tag Law, and penalizing offenders.
“Even if importers buy at a lower price, the retailers may not pass on the decreases to the consumers, thus limiting the impact of inflation,” Chen reasons.
Meanwhile, AFA recommends that instead of decreasing CME, it should actually be increased and accompanied by actions. These include more buying stations, a higher price led by the six government-controlled coconut oil mills, and a temporary direct subsidy to legitimate coconut farmers.
“Farmers are also consumers. They are strongly opposed to inflation, because they constitute our poorest sector, and therefore suffer most from inflation. AFA strongly objects to some sectors implementing ill-conceived measures without consultation, which makes farmers suffer even more,” the group says.
The Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA) is a five-coalition alliance is comprised of Alyansa Agrikultura, Philippine Chamber of Agricukture and Food, Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines, Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kansyunan, and Agri Fisheries 2025.