Rice tariff law failed, lawmaker laments
The rice tariffication law, or Republic Act No. 11203, has failed to bring promised benefits to farmers and is instead being used by traders for excessive profiteering.
“In simple language, the reform [intended by the rice tariffication law] essentially strengthened the bargaining position of the traders — that is the unintended consequence,” said Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, House ways and means committee chair.
RA 11203, which was signed into law in February, liberalized rice importation in the country and was intended to solve the worsening rice shortage in the country.
Since its implementation, however, the law has been widely blamed for the plunging farm-gate prices of palay, or unhusked rice, to as low as P7 a kilo, causing an uproar among rice farmers.
Go after traders
“So my appeal is this: subject these traders to ‘tokhang’; let’s look at their warehouses, import records and deliveries,” Salceda said.
He submitted a five-page “aide-mémoire” on Tuesday to President Rodrigo Duterte and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on measures the national government can undertake to manage the fallout.
Salceda urged the Department of Justice and the Philippine Competition Commission to investigate possible economic sabotage, and the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture to intensify monitoring of price manipulations.
The Albay lawmaker recommended that the government carry out “resolute expressions of [its] firmness in combatting rice cartels.”
Salceda said the National Food Authority should be allowed to borrow funds to treble its current buying operations from P7.5 billion to P22.5 billion.
But Salceda rejected proposals to repeal or amend the rice tariffication law because it remains a “good law.”
He said traders take advantage of farmers’ lack of access to storage, drying, milling and transport facilities needed to sell directly to the consumer.
“They turned us [lawmakers] into fools. In short, it’s bad traders cheating,” Salceda added.
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