Review law allowing rice imports? No!, says Dominguez
An emphatic “No.”
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III gave this reply when reporters asked him what he thought about a social media post by outgoing Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol relaying appeals made by farmers and farm cooperatives for the government to review the Rice Tariffication Act, which allowed the unrestricted importation of rice provided duties were paid in a move taken to ease rising prices.
The appeals for a review came supposedly after the measure failed to result in drastic declines in prices of the Filipino staple food.
Citing a report from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Francisco G. Dakila Jr., prices of well-milled rice already declined to P42.92 per kilogram as of June 2019 from P45.09 per kg in January of the same year and P49.06 per kg in September 2018.
The report also showed that regular milled rice prices dropped to P38.56 per kg in June 2019 from P41.41 per kg in January 2019 and P45.75 per kg in September 2018.
At the 2019 Pre-State of the Nation Address (Sona) Economic and Infrastructure Forum held early this month, Dominguez described Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Act as “among the monumental legislative achievements of this administration.”
“The liberalization of rice trading was finally achieved after more than thirty years of failed attempts under various administrations,” Dominguez said at that forum.
“This law has made quality rice more affordable and accessible to Filipino consumers, thereby bringing down inflation. In fact, rice retail prices are now cheaper by P5-10 per kilo compared to last year,” Dominguez added.
He said quantitative restrictions, or QR, which limited the volume of rice that are allowed to be imported to the Philippines, had been “abused by a select few.”
“The new law ensures that farmers benefit directly from import tariffs by providing at least P10 billion each year for mechanization, high quality seeds, access to credit and training,” Dominguez said.
The collection of tariff after import restrictions were eased had generated P5.9 billion in additional government revenue since March, data from the Department of Finance showed.
The new law sets a 35 percent tariff for rice imported from the Asean region, 40 percent for imported rice that don’t exceed the minimum access volume (MAV) of 350,000 metric tons from countries outside Asean and 180 percent if above the MAV and coming from non-Asean sources.
Opening up the importation of rice was President Rodrigo Duterte’s reaction to a period of shortage of affordable rice from the National Food Authority which led to a spike in prices./TSB
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