House okays rice tariffication bill on 2nd reading

MANILA The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading the rice tariffication bill, which would help ease inflation and lower the price of the food staple.

The lower chamber passed via voice vote House Bill 7735 or the Revised Agricultural Tariffication Act, which President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent to expedite its passage.

House committee on agriculture chairman Jose Panganiban said the bill seeks to put in place the safety nets for Filipino rice producers and consumers by imposing tariffs in lieu of quantitative restrictions on rice imports.

Under the bill, the country's minimum access volume (MAV) for rice will revert to its 2012 level of 350,000 metric tons (MT) as indicated in the Philippines' commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO), from the current 805,000 MT.

The bill proposes to set the bound tariff rate at 35 percent for imported rice originating from member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region and is aligned with the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) regardless of volume.

It also proposes to impose a most-favored nation (MFN) tariff rate of 40 percent for in-quota rice imports from non-ASEAN WTO member countries, while a 180 percent MFN tariff rate shall be imposed for volumes imported outside the MAV.

During the period of amendments, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman proposed to delete the provisions that seek to amend the charter of the National Food Authority (NFA).

Lagman said the amendment to the NFA charter should be made through a separate bill.

Amendment to the charter of the NFA could not be effected in the rice tariffication bill because it will violate the constitutional prohibition that no bill should have more than one subject matter, Lagman said.

Lagman also proposed that the rice competitiveness enhancement fund (RCEF) shall be released automatically by the Department of Budget and Management on a periodic basis.

The bill provides for the creation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which shall consist of all the duties collected from the importation of rice under the proposed law. The fund shall be allocated and disbursed as follows: 20 percent of the fund will be set aside for a rice endowment fund; 20 percent as credit subsidy or grants for purposes of increasing rice farms modernization, mechanization, and production efficiency; 20 percent for rice crop finance; 20 percent for post-harvest facilities, logistics, storage, transportation facilities, and infrastructure projects; 10 percent for rice scholarships and vocational education; and 10 percent for research and development.

Duterte, in his third State of the Nation Address, said there is a need for the country to switch from the current quota system in importing rice to a tariff system, under which, rice can be imported more freely, giving additional resources for farmers, reduce the price of rice, and lower inflation significantly. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency