THE Department of Agriculture (DA)  will launch an investigation to look into allegations of corruption in the allocation of meat import certificates under the in-quota Minimum Access Volume (MAV) scheme.

The DA has created a special committee headed by the Department’s legal service chief, and will base its inquiry on the initial findings of the DA-MAV secretariat.

"While we stand firm that the issuance of MAV in-quota allocation is above-board and non-discretionary, we have created a special committee to look into allegations made by a lawmaker that there is a syndicate in the DA engaged in a payoff scheme," said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.

During Monday's Senate session, Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged a syndicate in the DA was imposing "tongpats" or padded costs on pork imports and is bound to make as much as P6 billion in kickbacks, or an extra P5 to P7 per kilo of imported pork.

“We should unmask who is/are behind this scheme no matter how powerful and influential he may be with this administration," Lacson said in a statement.

The DA has been proposing to increase the MAV and lower the tariffs on pork imports in a bid to stabilize supply and prices of pork.

The Senate, however, passed a resolution calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to reject the DA’s recommendation.

The DA earlier recommended to increase the MAV from 54,000 to 404,000 metric tons. It has also sought to lower the tariff from 30 percent to 5 percent if within import quota.