President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the rice tariffication bill which does away with quantitative restrictions on rice imports and replaces these with tariffs.
Republic Act (RA) No. 11203, which amends RA 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996, was signed amid opposition from various groups despite projections by the country’s economic managers that it would bring down prices of rice by P4 to P7 per kilo and shave off 0.4 to 0.6 percentage points from the inflation rate.
Under this new law, rice traders may import rice without having to secure a permit from the National Food Authority (NFA), but they would have to pay the appropriate tariff to the Bureau of Customs - 35% for rice coming from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and 50% for rice from non-ASEAN countries.
Rice traders would also have to secure a sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance from the Bureau of Plant Industry.
The NFA, meanwhile, will focus on ensuring sufficient buffer stocks. The agency will still sell cheap rice, but may focus on areas that private traders do not serve.
The new law also creates the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which will be funded from the tariff revenues and estimated at P10 billion a year.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that for 2019, the Rice Fund would be allocated as follows: P5 billion for farm mechanization; P3 billion for high-yielding seeds; P1 billion for credit; and P1 billion for technical skills training.
A portion of the tariff revenues in excess of P10 billion will be used to provide direct financial assistance to rice farmers.
The country’s economic team has been pushing for the enactment of the rice tariffication measure, saying this is crucial in government efforts to bring down prices of rice and tame inflation.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia earlier said the measure would make cheaper rice available from various sources, aside from the NFA.
“The aim of the bill is to make rice accessible and affordable to every Filipino, and to make the rice sector competitive,” he had said. (Ventures Cebu)