Passage of rice import tariffication pushed
State planning agency National Economic and Development Authority yesterday called on Congress to pass the measure that would replace import quota on rice with about 35-percent tariff to bring down the prices in the local market.
During his State of the National Address on Monday, President Duterte had asked Congress to immediately pass into law the amendment to Republic Act No. 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act.
“There is no time to waste. All of us must rally behind the administration’s reform agenda, most especially the rice tarrification bill which if implemented will make our agriculture sector competitive in the long-term,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said in a statement.
Pernia, who heads Neda, said the signing of the bill into law and its implementation would likely bring down rice prices.
“Headline inflation rate would be reduced by one percentage point if the domestic wholesale rice market reduces its price to the level of imported rice,” Neda said, citing a preliminary estimate.
The government wants to keep consumer prices stable even as inflation soared to an over five-year high of 5.2 percent in June partly due to higher rice prices, bringing the first-half average to 4.3 percent, above the government’s full-year target range of 2-4 percent.
Economic managers have been pushing for the amendment of the decade-old RA 8178, which had put the rice import quota or so-called quantitative restrictions (QR) in place.
In 2014, the WTO allowed the Philippines to extend its QR on rice until June 30, 2017, to give local farmers more time to prepare for free trade in light of the government’s goal of achieving rice self-sufficiency.
Last year, Mr. Duterte extended the rice import quota for three more years under Executive Order No. 23
Since the government imposes a quota on rice imports, domestic prices are vulnerable to shocks from meager supply.
The QR puts the burden of rice supply and demand on the government, whereas market forces are being limited by the quota system.
Some sectors say importation should be done by the private sector to allow market forces to determine prices.
The extended QR slaps 35-percent duty on imported rice under a minimum access volume (MAV) of 805,200 metric tons. Importation outside of the MAV limit are levied a higher tariff of 50 percent.
The Philippines’ most favored nation rate—the additional tariff imposed when imported outside of Asean—on the commodity remains at about 40 percent.