THE Department of Finance (DOF) is mulling over extending the reduced tariff rates on four commodities, which includes rice and pork, to keep the country’s inflation rate in check.
“We are reviewing the possible extension. We will have a meeting next month to review if we have to extend [the tariff rates],” Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said in a recent press briefing.
The review involves four commodities: rice, corn, pork and fish, according to Finance Undersecretary Zeno Ronald R. Abenoja.
The reduced tariff rates on rice, corn and pork are set to expire by yearend as stipulated under President Marcos Jr.’s Executive Order (EO) 10 series of 2023.
Under EO 10, the tariffs for pork range between 15 and 25 percent while corn imports have a tariff rate of 5 to 15 percent. Rice imports are levied with a uniform 35-percent tariff, based on EO 10.
The current administration has kept the lower tariffs on the three agricultural commodities until the end of the year “to maintain affordable prices” of food items and “ensure food security” in the country.
Abenoja explained that the Inter-Agency Committee on Inflation and Market Outlook (IAC-IMO) has started to review the present tariff rates of the four commodities as well as other drivers of inflation.
The IAC-IMO is reviewing the tariff rates on imported food and non-food items, Abenoja added.
Abenoja said they do not want to preempt the results of the Tariff Commission’s comprehensive review of the country’s tariff structure after he was asked if the DOF is looking into the possibility of making the reduced tariff rates on the commodities permanent for at least the next five years.
“We are participating in that review. That is being reviewed together with other private sector partners so we can prepare both the government and the stakeholders for any adjustments in the tariff structure. We do not want to preempt the results of that review,” Abenoja explained.
Automatic SPSIC approval
The DOF is also pushing for the implementation of a system that would automatically approve sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance (SPSIC) applications for all imported commodities.
The system, the finance officials noted, is akin to the present SPSIC system being implemented for imported rice as mandated by the rice trade liberalization (RTL) law.
For rice imports, SPSIC applications are deemed automatically approved after seven days of filing before the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) in the absence of proper rejection or denial from the regulatory agency.
“Measures will also be implemented by the government to facilitate the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance [SPSIC] and the enactment of a policy on the automatic approval of SPSIC application,” the DOF said in a separate statement.
The DOF said the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is also set to issue import guidelines “with a more predictable regime” for the direct importation by industrial users for their sugar requirements.
These measures, the DOF said, are aimed at further slowing down the country’s inflation print which has slid to 4.7 percent in July.
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