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Duterte urged to sign rice tariffication bill

Local and foreign business groups have urged President Duterte to sign the bill that will let rice imports flow freely into the country after problems in the staple’s supply pushed inflation to new highs last year.

Thirteen business groups signed a joint statement calling for the passage of the Rice Tariffication Bill as the urgency grew stronger in the aftermath of last year’s inflation, which reached peaks that only added more burden to consumers and businesses alike.

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“The bill is now with Malacañang and we urge the President to sign it into law,” they said, adding that this would “address the rice supply disruption problem and concomitant high prices.”

The problem in the country’s rice supply was one of the main reasons why monthly inflation rates reached their highest in nearly a decade.

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The signatories to the statement were the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, the Bankers Association of the Philippines, the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, the Foundation for Economic Freedom, the Investment House Association of the Philippines, the Judicial Reform Initiative, the Management Association of the Philippines, the Makati Business Club, the Organization of Socialized Housing Developers of the Philippines, the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Philippine Investment Funds Association, the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. and the Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, considered the largest business group in the country, was not part of the joint statement. Nevertheless, PCCI president Alegria Limjoco said that they supported the call as well.

“We support the Rice Tariffication [Bill], which will help to stabilize and lower the prices of rice in the domestic market and ensure its sufficient stock,” she said in a text message.

The measure will open the country’s doors to unrestricted importation of rice and will be imposing a tariff of between 35 and 50 percent.

It is set to strip the National Food Authority (NFA) of its regulating, purchasing and selling functions, among others. NFA’s primary function will be to maintain the country’s emergency stocks.

“Upon enactment, the financial resources, management expertise, logistics support and extensive nationwide distribution system of the private sector will be harnessed to ensure food security, particularly of the most important food staple— rice,” the statement said.

“Consumers must be freed of food supply apprehension and provided with price stability at an affordable level. At the same time, rice farmers will be accorded protection from unfair competition through the imposition of import tariff duty,” it added.

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The bill, considered a priority measure of the Duterte administration, was slated to be signed into law before the end of 2018. It has already been separately ratified by the two chambers and will lapse into law if Mr. Duterte will not approve or veto the measure 30 days upon submission to his office.

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TAGS: President Duterte, rice imports, Rice Tariffication Bill
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