THE reduction in rice tariffs is not completely off the table as the economic managers are set to review the lower rates imposed by President Marcos Jr. on certain agricultural commodities under his Executive Order (EO) 10.
Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno disclosed that the reduction of rice tariffs has been “ruled out” for now after Marcos rejected the proposal last week. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/09/27/marcos-rejects-rice-tariff-cut-proposal/)
“Narule out na yun [rice tariff reduction], for this time,” Diokno told reporters in a recent press briefing.
However, this does not mean that the ball has stopped rolling as finance officials revealed that the administration’s economic team is set to meet soon to review the implementation of EO 10.
Under Marcos’s EO 10, the lower tariff rates on imported rice, corn and pork were extended until the end of the year.
“The President really is the decision maker. Our role as cabinet secretary is to give the best advice based on the most recent info. And then once a decision is made, our next job is to implement, not to question the decision,” he explained.
Diokno emphasized that the government’s decisions are data-driven and are also based on the latest pertinent figures and information that they have.
Finance Undersecretary Zeno Ronald R. Abenoja said the review process for the EO 10 “will continue,” with the President getting inputs “from everyone,” which includes results of any pertinent consultative processes.
“The TC [Tariff Commission] is also looking at EO 10. So that process will continue, but this time we were only looking at rice but there are other commodities that we will also look at,” Abenoja said.
Abenoja said the pertinent intergovernment agencies including the Economic Development Group will meet this week to discuss EO 10, which would involve rice tariffs.
Under existing rules and regulations governing the President’s power on modifying tariff rates, the TC must conduct a public stakeholders meeting which in turn would make a recommendation to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
The Neda is the one that will make the necessary recommendation to the President on tariff adjustments.Matters related to tariff modifications can also be tackled at the Cabinet-level Committee on Tariff and Related Matters (CTRM) chaired by the Trade Secretary and co-chaired by the Neda Secretary.
Under Marcos’s EO 10, the lowered rates on rice, corn and pork shall automatically revert to their regular levels after December 31, 2023.
The BusinessMirror first reported on why the Department of Agriculture (DA), which is headed by Marcos, did not support the proposed tariff reduction by the economic managers and certain private stakeholders.
Based on the DA’s analysis, rice could lose almost P8 per kilogram due to the decline in farmgate prices if the proposed reduction in tariff was approved. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/09/28/tariff-cuts-could-slash-rice-farmers-income-by-%e2%82%a78-kg/)
Last week, more and more agricultural groups, including sheep and rabbit raisers, were opposing the proposal to reduce tariffs on imported commodities like rice as the government would lose almost P60 billion in revenues. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/09/25/more-groups-buck-proposal-to-slash-tariffs-on-agri-goods/)
Image credits: Bernard Testa