MANILA -- Imported meat will no longer enjoy zero tariff as part of a short-term measure to curb inflation, in what Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s economic point man said could be the result of a "strong" lobby.
Meat, which contributes 0.4 point to inflation, was supposed to be included in Arroyo’s proposed executive order removing taxes on basic food imports for at least 6 months.
"It’s not ours... It’s the executive (department) who doesn’t like it," Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, Arroyo’s "focal person" on counter-inflation, told a Manila forum Wednesday.
Salceda was later overheard saying "malakas ang lobby" (the lobby was strong). Asked if removing meat imports was the result of lobbying, he said: "I leave that interpretation to you."
He made the clarification following a phone call from Arroyo in the middle of the media forum.
Arroyo earlier issued a statement clarifying that she was "not advocating for the importation of meat products at reduced tariff rates."
It was a departure from her initial proposal, which sought zero tariff for pork meat (from 30 to 40 percent) and chicken meat (from 40 percent).
Salceda said there was no use including meat imports in the Arroyo proposal if this would not be included in the executive order.
President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign the order during the congressional break starting Aug. 17.
"Pinaalis (nila)," he said, referring to the executive branch. "Pag hindi nila in-include, ano naman magagawa ko?"
(They wanted it removed. If they don't include it, what can I do?)
Prior to Arroyo’s call, Salceda cautioned against "over-segmenting" the prices of basic food items contributing to inflation.
"The real concept is that food prices are up. Hindi ka naman pwede kumain na puro na lng isda (You can't eat just fish)," he said.
"The general idea is to shift the supply curve to the left by opening up importation and lowering the cost of importing," he said.