By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Cynthia Villar on Sunday assured she is committed to pursue passage of the rice tariffication bill that President Rodrigo Duterte has insisted during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week.
But Villar said she has sought the national government’s assurance that it will help rice farmers’ financially so they can mechanize and produce seeds that can increase their production per hectare from 4 to 6 metric tons.
“That’s the only way we can compete with Vietnam,” Villar said in a Radio DZBB interview, who chairs the Senate committee on food and agriculture.
“We will pass the rice tariffication bill but the problem is under the rice tariffication with ASEAN , we can only impose 35-percent tariff on rice. But our biggest competitor in rice is Vietnam. And they produce rice cheaper by 50 percent compared to us,”
“They produce rice at P6 per kilo of palay, tayo P12 per kilo of palay. Maski ako maglagay ng rice tariffication, the 35 percent which is the provision sa ASEAN, hindi pa rin competitive ang ating rice,” she lamented.
Farmers she said need all the help they can get to mechanize since other ASEAN countries have cheaper labor cost because their rice production is already mechanized.
“Pwede naman na tayo mag mechanize kasi ang mga bata ngayon ayaw naman nila magtanim ng palay. So mas maganda mag mechanize tayo,” she said.
“If we use machines to plant and then we save on labor. At the same time, we inbred seeds developed by PhilRice na ituturo sa ating mga farmers, mga seed growers, so that their production per hectare will increase,” she said.
Villar has laid out plans to include a P10-billion subsidy in a bid to boost Filipino rice farmers competitiveness in the pending rice tariffication bill as among the conditions set by the Senate in working in regard with the measure.
The bill will amend the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996 and will pave the way for the replacement of the quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports with tariff.