A LEADER of the House of Representatives on Thursday urged the Senate to pass the proposed Revised Agricultural Tariffication Act to address the country’s problems on rice supply and high prices.
In pushing the passage of the proposed Revised Agricultural Tariffication Act, Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said: “The sooner we institutionalize a rule-based system of importing rice, the better. That’s the only way of legally bringing in rice; all other methods are smuggling. The House has passed the rice tariffication bill, the Senate should do the same,” said Andaya.
The bill is currently pending before the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.
Andaya, however, also admitted that replacing quantitative import restrictions on rice with duties is only one of the ways to make rice affordable and abundant.
“We must also look into the budget of the DA [Department of Agriculture] and overall public spending for food security. [In areas where there is] scarcity [or the rice supply is not enough], the government can rush stocks to beef up the buffer,” he added.
“The long-term view is to stick to the existing road map for food security. Let us fund and implement it so there will be no repeat of the turbulence rocking the rice sector,” he said.
The lawmaker added price speculators and hoarders should also be “fumigated and flushed out of the system.”
The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading earlier this month House Bill 7735, which seeks to liberalize rice imports by replacing the quantitative import restrictions on rice with tariffs, and create the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.
The bill aims to protect producers of agricultural products, ensure food security and make the agricultural sector viable and globally competitive.
Earlier, House Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairman Jose Panganiban Jr. of ANAC-IP party-list said the P20-billion projected annual tariff to be collected from imported rice is a big help to the country’s rice farmers.
Panganiban said the country will have about P29 billion to P30 billion that will directly benefit the rice sector.
The P20 billion will come from the annual rice tariff, and the additional P9 billion from the Department of Agriculture.
With the advent of the rice tariffication regime, Panganiban said the country must improve the local rice production to reduce the production cost of rice farmers.
Also, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, an author of the tariffication bill, said it is a “win-win” situation for consumers and farmers at this time when Filipinos are reeling from higher-than-target inflation.
Villafuerte said the measure liberalizes the entry of cheaper rice and consumers will benefit from this because the lifting of the QR on rice imports is expected to slash the retail cost of the staple by as much as P7 per kilo.