Rice tariffication bill hurdles House

MANILAThe House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading the rice tariffication bill which would help ease inflation and lower the price of the food staple.

With 200 affirmative votes, 7 negative votes, and 2 abstention, the lower chamber passed 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 rice 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 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.

The bill empowers the President, when necessary, to: adjust the applied rate; regulate rice exports; impose temporary regulations or restrictions on the volume of imports of rice; and enter into trade negotiations or renegotiations relating to the bound or maximum rates committed by the country in relation to rice.

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, where 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