Review of rice tariffication law pushed

By Jordeene B. Lagare | Philippine Daily Inquirer
August 22, 2023

MANILA -The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) is expecting the Marcos administration to look deeply into pertinent provisions of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) amid lingering challenges in the local rice industry.

FFF chair Leonardo Montemayor said the RTL has tied the government’s hands in addressing issues beleaguering the domestic sector on the back of skyrocketing retail prices and export bans by India and Vietnam since its enactment in 2019.

“Essentially, RTL has left food security and farmers’ and consumers’ welfare to the vagaries of the so-called free market and the ‘humanitarian’ graces of rice-exporting countries,” said Montemayor, who previously served as the country’s agriculture secretary. “We, therefore, expect and demand that the review and amendments of the RTL look deeply into its basic assumptions, objectives and major provisions.”

Montemayor made the pronouncement following President Marcos’ recognition of the law’s “serious infirmities.”

When Mr. Marcos took on the agriculture portfolio in the early part of his term, he ordered the Department of Agriculture (DA) to reassess Republic Act No. 11203.

The law liberalized rice trading as it allowed unlimited importation of rice. In exchange, about P10 billion collected from rice tariffs will be plowed into the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) annually until 2024. Of this amount, P5 billion is earmarked for the distribution of farm machinery and equipment for free. Another P3 billion is allotted for providing certified seeds and P1 billion each for credit support and training of farmers and extension.

The RTL, however, downscaled the National Food Authority’s mandate to maintain a sufficient rice buffer stock for emergency situations and support the government’s disaster relief efforts in the event of natural or man-made calamities.

The President is allowed to authorize importation at a lower applied tariff rate in case of “any imminent or forecasted shortage, or such other situation requiring government intervention” when Congress is not in session.

Markets in Metro Manila sell local rice from P55 to P62 per kilogram as of Aug. 18 from P38 to P50 per kg in the same period a year ago, based on the DA’s price monitoring.

Imported rice retails from P40 to P65 per kg compared to last year’s P38 to P50 per kg.