By Mario Casayuran
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Economic Affairs Committee, has urged the Senate to pass the Rice Tariffication bill which is seen as a strong counter-inflationary measure that would bring “immediate relief to Filipino consumers by saving them thousands of pesos per year on rice.”
At the same time, Gatchalian said he would file a bill that will abolish the National Food Authority (NFA) “in due time” in order to further strengthen the domestic rice market for consumers and farmers alike.
“It is time to fix the dysfunctional state of the Philippine rice sector and finally bring down the criminally-high market price of rice to reasonable levels,” he added.
In his co-sponsorship speech for Senate Bill 1998, Gatchalian said “abolishing quantitative restrictions on rice and replacing them with a reasonable tariffication scheme will increase the supply of quality and affordable rice in local retail markets and provide consumer savings to families suffering under the burden of rising food inflation.”
“These savings can be applied to other basic necessities, such as transportation, education, and medicine, among others,” he explained.
“Most importantly, this bill will strengthen food security among poor and near poor families by helping them put enough rice on their plates to keep their stomachs full and happy,” he added.
Gatchalian, a member of the Senate majority bloc, stressed that the “dysfunctional state” of the rice market is taking its toll on the poor by exacerbating the burden of inflation and making it harder for them to buy enough rice for their daily subsistence.
To illustrate his point, Garchalian said at the 35 percent tariff rate, the projected market price of regular quality Thai rice would be P30.02 per kilogram and P28.59 pesos per kilogram for regular quality Vietnamese rice, compared to the P42 per kilogram average market price of regular milled rice as of August 28.
“Thus, at the [35 percent] tariff rate, consumers would save as much as P13.41 per kilogram compared to the current average market price. For an average family consuming 450 kilograms of rice per year, this would result in annual savings of P6,034.50. This would be enough to buy more than four 50-kilogram sacks of Vietnamese rice at the new lower price,” he said.
Moreover, Gatchalian said the creation of a tariffication system on rice “practically eliminates the need for a body” like the National Food Authority (NFA).