By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Lifting the quantitative restriction on rice importation and imposing a zero tariff on imported fish were among the “immediate solutions” discussed during Speaker Arroyo’s meeting with the country’s economic managers to address inflation.
House Majority Floor Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr. said the House leadership agreed with the economic managers that these measures should be immediately implemented.
“Unang una po ang gustong mangyari ng bago nating Speaker na magkaroon ng immediate solutions sa inflation. Ang napagusapan ay i-prioritize namin ang pagtanggal sa quantitative restriction sa pagimport ng bigas. Ang pangalawa na hinihingi ay tanggalin ang taripa sa isda,” he said in a radio interview.
“Pati ang presyo ng gasolina hahanapan ng paraan para maibaba, ” Andaya added.
Andaya joined Speaker Arroyo in a “working lunch” meeting with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr.
Other House members who joined the meeting were Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, and Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap.
Speaker Arroyo described the meeting as “a professor to professor discussion on the economy especially to address the inflation.”
Andaya said they wanted to implement the zero tariff on imported fish “in the next two weeks.”
He said they need to pass a law to lift the QR on rice importation, even as he assured that such initiative would not fire up “unli-importation” of rice.
“May taripa pa rin, hindi naman basta basta na uulanin ng imported rice. Yung taripa na makokolekta ay ibibigay sa mga magsasaka para maging subsidy nila sa pagproduce ng locally grown rice, ” he said.
He expressed hope that they could pass the law to lift the QR on rice tomorrow, August 1.
He clarified that the measures agreed upon during the meeting are “not long term and structural reforms.”
Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao earlier warned that the lifting of the QR on rice is “a national calamity waiting to happen” as the rice stocks in the world market is expected to be tight next year.
He said by lifting the QR on rice, President Duterte only makes local rice farmers more vulnerable and more marginalized.
“President Duterte is considering only the maintenance of buffer stock which is a mere derivative of the big problem of the local rice industry. He is not seeing the bigger picture which could have told him that the lack of rice supply in the local market was the result of years of mindlessly following a highly flawed policy in agriculture,” Casilao said in a statement.
He noted that such policy was first imposed on the country by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and later entrenched in the country’s agriculture when the Philippines joined the World Trade Organization in the 90’s.
“This perennial problem of buffer stock shortage is simply a case of the country reaping what it sowed,”, the Makabayan lawmaker said.
Casilao said the removal of rice QRs should be a cause for alarm, explaining that it would fire up “unli-importation” of rice.
“The unli-importation which will be the effect of lifting the QRs on rice importation is really not the answer. It is a band-aid solution. What we need is a long term solution like providing subsidies and support services to our rice farmers and putting an end to the destruction of our rice lands by land use conversion and development aggression,” he said.
“The country should also get out of the World Trade Organization as it imposes one-sided agreements which are detrimental to our agriculture and local market”, the Anakpawis lawmaker said.
Casilao called on the public to protest the government’s action.
“Despite the little protection that the QRs may have for our rice farmers, its lifting is calamitous. Anakpawis calls on the public to oppose the removal of the QR’s as it will be disadvantageous to our local rice farmers. We also urged them to support to legislative measures to help our rice industry through the enactment of genuine agrarian reform and the Rice Industry Development Act,” he said.