Duterte to discuss tariffs, inflation with Congress

By Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte has initiated a dialogue with Congress leaders to tackle the proposed reduction of import tariffs of some food items.

President Duterte (RTVM / MANILA BULLETIN) President Duterte

The President said he already met with Speaker Gloria Arroyo to discuss the country's inflation last Tuesday and would meet with other lawmakers about the matter on Wednesday.

"Nagpag-usapan namin ni President Arroyo itong inflation how to go about it," Duterte said before an assembly of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) in Malacañang Tuesday night.

"I will meet congressmen tomorrow (Wednesday) to sort it out which tariff will be reduced or removed outright," he added.

In an earlier speech at a business forum at the Palace, the President said he signed the "measures of inflation which our Speaker is also passionately talking about." He did not elaborate.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia recently announced that the President was expected to issue an executive order reducing tariff on imported rice, vegetables, corn, wheat flour and meat in a bid to curb the soaring inflation rate. The reduced tariff system will reportedly be implemented for at least six months.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said no one in the Cabinet agreed with the proposed zero tariff on some food imports since it would mean "war" with local farmers and agricultural producers.

Roque said the government was instead mulling on lowering import tariff on select food products to help cushion the impact of inflation. He pointed out that there was need to balance the interests of farmers and the consumers.

Speaker Arroyo reportedly proposed zero import tariffs on fish and meat products, the two items that contribute to inflation, during a recent meeting with the President's economic managers. But the former leader later clarified that she was against the importation of meat products at reduced tax rates.