By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives passed on second reading last night the bill seeking to liberalize rice imports by replacing with tariffs the quantitative import restrictions on the staple.
A priority legislation of the Duterte administration, House Bill NO. 7735 won unanimous support via viva voce. It was strongly recommended for approval by the House Committees on Agriculture and Food, Ways and Means and on Appropriations.
Among the authors of the measure are former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macagapal-Arroyo and Rep Sharon Garin of AAMBIS OWA Partylist.
ANAC-IP Partylist Rep. Jose Panganiban sponsored the measure on the floor.
The bill seeks to liberalize rice trading by opening importations to private traders, thus, will increase the supply of rice, encourage more competition and lower the price of the country’s staple.
HB 7735 was backed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) as it noted that liberalizing rice imports through tariffication will lower the inflation rate by 0.4 percentage points while both the Department of Finance (DOF) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said it would bring rice prices down by as much as P7 per kilo.
However, Makabayan Rep. Ariel Casilao aired strong reservations about the effects of the bill for rice farmers, decrying the bill as a “doomsday legislation” for the country’s agricultural sector.
“It is akin to condemning them (farmers) to mass displacement and misery,” Casilao said in a statement.
In the House version of the measure, the quantitative restrictions (QRs) on rice would be replaced by the “maximum bound rate” commitments of the Philippines under the World Trade Organization (WTO).
This refers to the maximum tariffs on products committed by country to the WTO. With rice tariffication, the minimum access volume (MAV) will revert to the 2012 level at 350,000 metric tons (MT) as indicated in the Philippines’ commitment to the WTO.
“The bound rate for rice shall be set at 40 percent Most Favored Nation (MFN) rate for importation within 350,000 MT MAV from non-ASEAN member countries, and 180 percent MFN out quota tariff rate,” the bill states.
For imported rice originating from ASEAN countries, the import duty rate commitments of the Philippines in the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement shall be applied.