Rice tariff bill slated for second-reading approval

THE Duterte administration’s rice tariffication bill is now moving closer to getting approval at the House of Representatives.

This, after House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Jose T. Panganiban Jr. of Anac-IP delivered his sponsorship speech on Tuesday and called for the immediate passage of House Bill 7735,  or the proposed “Revised Agricultural Tariffication Act.”

Government officials earlier disclosed that they are eyeing to present the rice tariffication law to the World Trade Organization in September.

“We will approve this tomorrow [Wednesday] on second reading. . . We can no longer postpone [the passage of] the rice tariffication bill,” Panganiban told the  BusinessMirror.

“The bill seeks to put in place the safety nets for Filipinos rice producers and rice consumers by imposing tariffs in lieu of quantitative restrictions on rice imports,” he added. The lower house has set the bound tariff rate for rice imports outside the minimum access volume (MAV) at 180 percent.

Under the bill, the Philippines will impose a bound tariff rate of 35 percent for rice originating from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region, regardless of volume. Manila would also impose a 40-percent bound tariff most-favored nation  rate for in-quota rice imports from countries that do not belong to the  Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Once the bill is enacted into law, the country’s MAV for rice shall revert to its 2012 level of 350,000 metric tons, from the current 805,000 MT.

The bill mandates the National Food Authority (NFA) as the sole authority to undertake the direct importation of rice, only for the purpose of ensuring food security and maintaining sufficient national buffer stocks.

The measure defines buffer stock in the NFA rice inventory as reserve equivalent to 15 days’ national consumption requirement and maintained by the NFA at any given time to address calamities, and most important, for price stabilization.

It also authorizes the NFA to allocate import permits among certified and licensed importers for importation other than maintaining buffer stocks, while mandating the NFA to issue guidelines for the exportation of rice and corn by certified and licensed exporters.

It also provides for the composition of the NFA Council, to be chaired by the secretary of Department of Agriculture, cochaired by the NFA administrator with these members: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor, secretaries of Department of Finance, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of the Interior and Local Government, chairman of National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, executive secretary of Office of the President and two farmers’ representatives.

The bill also 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 to or to be committed by the Philippine in relation to rice.

 

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Jovee Marie Dela Cruz is working as a reporter in the country's leading business newspaper the BusinessMirror since 2013. Ms. Dela Cruz, who is in the media industry for 8 years, is currently covering the House of Representatives. She graduated from Universidad De Manila with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2008. At present, Ms. Dela Cruz is finishing up her master's degree in communication at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).

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