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Rice tariffication law

 

 

robert roque robroq firing line

FOLLOWING the enact­ment of the rice tariffica­tion law, the government has removed the limitations on the volume of imported rice and promises to provide cheap rice for consumers at a time they need it the most.

It is an undeniable fact that everyone has been affected by the continuous rise in the prices of consumer items re­cently, including rice – our staple food. This is truly sad­dening considering that most rice products in the market are locally produced.

According to Senator Cyn­thia Villar, chair of the Senate agriculture committee and the sponsor of the bill, the measure would help farmers improve their profitability and competitiveness.

The revenue would sup­posedly be used to create the P10-billion Rice Competitive­ness Enhancement Fund to provide seeds to increase the farmers’ harvest, modernize postharvest facilities, farm equipment and development of inbred rice seeds.

Rice imports would face a tariff instead of limitations on how much rice would be allowed to enter the country. The tariff is 35 percent for rice from members of the As­sociation of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and 50 per­cent for imports coming from non-ASEAN countries.

The Duterte administration has pushed for the enactment of the rice tariffication law to address inflation. The ex­pected increase in the supply of rice would provide access to more affordable rice to the benefit consumers.

But as we said in a pre­vious column, you simply could please everybody as some opponents disputed the government’s claims. They believe the law would be detrimental to farmers since it would be quite difficult for them to compete with the price of imported rice.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) claimed the law would open the country to unrestrained rice importation and even put an increase to rice prices. This could destroy the local industry and directly affect the livelihood of 13.5 million rice farmers and 17.5 million farm workers along with their families.

Senator Francis Pangili­nan said the law should be followed to the letter. He recalled the government’s earlier promise that additional revenue from the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law would improve the people’s lives. However, it led to increased fuel prices that led to higher prices of basic goods.

We praise the government for its efforts to make rice more affordable to consum­ers. But the law should be implemented very carefully to ensure that it would benefit the farmers as well and not put an end to their industry with the influx of imported rice.

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