By Ellson Quismorio
A Bicol solon is prodding the Senate to pass its version of the rice tariffication bill as soon as Congress resumes session in November to clear the way for its implementation next year.
This, as Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte argued that the law would stabilize retail prices of the staple grain and thus alleviate the plight of ordinary Filipinos reeling from the current inflation surge.
Moreover, Villafuerte said President Duterte’s declaration of this import liberalization bill as a priority or urgent measure should prompt the Senate to act on it with dispatch upon the resumption of sessions on November 12.
“The prompt approval of the rice tariffication bill is the fastest way for both chambers of the Congress to help President Duterte tame inflation and ease its impact on consumers–most especially this coming holiday season–given that food expenses account for 9.7 percent of the consumer price index,” noted Villafuerte, a vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Also, he said the speedy approval of this measure would go a long way in boosting palay (unmilled rice) productivity, which is a long-term approach to stabilizing the supply and price of the staple.
This is because it provides for the establishment of a Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which would bankroll farm modernization and other projects beneficial to local palay growers.
Under the bill, import tariffs are to go to the RCEF, which the Department of Agriculture (DA) will use to provide for, among others, easy-to-access loans to farmers for production, inputs like fertilizer, postharvest facilities, and research and development (R&D).
Villafuerte is a co-author of the House of Representatives’ version of the rice tariffication bill, which the Chamber already approved last August.
In certifying the rice tariffication bill as urgent, the President cited the “urgent need to improve availability of rice in the country, prevent artificial rice shortage, reduce the prices of rice in the market and curtail the prevalence of corruption and cartel domination in the rice industry.”
The Camarines Sur lawmaker pointed out that the rice tariffication bill promises to be a “win-win” for consumers and farmers alike amid fast inflation.
He said consumers would benefit from this bill as the lifting of the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice imports will reduce the inflation rate–as estimated by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)–by 0.7 percentage point. According to the Cabinet-level Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), the rice tariffication measure is expected to slash the retail cost of the staple by P2 to P7 per kilo.
“Lower prices would benefit farmers, too, as they are also rice consumers,” Villafuerte said. “Moreover, farmers would benefit from the bill in the long run as it would boost their harvests and sharpen their global competitiveness as palay growers.”
“Hence, this rice tariffication measures promises to be a win-win solution for Filipino consumers and farmers alike as the Duterte administration continues to find ways to ease the inflation spike,” Villafuerte said.