The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) will convince the President to certify as urgent measures amending a law that allows the Philippines to continue imposing the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice beyond June 30.
Neda Undersecretary for Planning and Policy Rosemarie Edillon told the BusinessMirror over the weekend that the request will be made by the interagency Committee on Tariff and Related Matters (CTRM).
The CTRM recommends to the President, among others, a continuous rationalization program for the country’s tariff structure.
“The CTRM will issue the request,” Edillon said. “There is no definite schedule yet [when the CTRM will do this]. [The next meeting of the CTRM will happen] some time early July.”
The Agricultural Tarrification Act, or Republic Act (RA) 8178, did not indicate an end date for the QR on rice. The QR has allowed the government to limit the volume of rice that can be imported by the Philippines every year, preventing a possible influx of cheap rice imports.
RA 8178 was enacted in 1996 and specified the tariffs for imported farm products, except for rice, as the World Trade Organization (WTO) permitted Manila to continue imposing the rice QR until 2004.
The duties collected from imported farm products constituted the so-called Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which should have been used for irrigation, farm-to-market roads, postharvest equipment and facilities, and provision of credit.
However, the Philippines sought the extension of the waiver for the special treatment on rice twice, citing the need for more time to prepare the local rice sector.
The waiver will expire on June 30 this year but the Duterte administration has decided not to seek for another extension of the WTO waiver.
Senior government officials, however, said Manila could not yet convert the rice QR into a specific tariff rate because Congress has not amended RA 8178 to remove the rice import caps.
The Duterte administration vowed to allocate all the proceeds from tariffs collected from rice imports to cut farmers’ production cost, according to the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022.
The country’s medium-term macroeconomic blueprint said the amendment of RA 8178 is included in the priority legislative agenda of the Duterte administration. The government decided to allow the country’s QR to expire because of its potential to reduce rice prices nationwide.
Rice, according to the PDP, accounts for 30.6 percent of the total food expenditure of the poorest 20 percent of households based on the 2012 Family Income and Expenditure Survey.
The CTRM is composed of the secretary of trade and industry, as chairman; with the Secretary of Neda, as cochairman.
Its members are the executive secretary; the secretaries of foreign affairs, agriculture, transportation, information, environment and budget; the governor of the central
bank; and the chairman of the Tariff Commission.
The CTRM advises the President and the Neda Board on tariff and related matters and on the effects on the country of various international developments.
It also coordinates agency positions and recommends national positions for international economic negotiations.