By Madelaine B. Miraflor
President Rodrigo Duterte is yet to sign the Rice Tariffication Bill but Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol already knows where to use the fund to be collected from the tax to be collected from rice imports.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the Department of Agriculture (DA) is set to launch the Samar Rice Development Program (SRDP), which aims to develop as much as 100,000 hectares of land into farms across three provinces in the region.
He said that SRDP will be the first major beneficiary of the liberalization of rice importation in the country.
Under the Rice Tariffication Bill, which seeks to replace the Quantitative Restriction (QR) or quota on rice imports with a specific tariff rate, the government should set up the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
RCEF, which will be injected with an initial fund of P10 billion, is the tariff to be collected from all the imported rice set to enter the country sans the QR. It is meant to make the country’s local rice sector competitive versus the cheaper imported rice.
The Rice Tariffication Bill is now up for Duterte’s signature.
Piñol said that SRDP will groom three provinces of Northern Samar, Eastern Samar and Western Samar to become significant contributors to the national rice production.
From the current average of 2 metric tons (MT) per hectare average yield in the island, the SRDP targets an average production of 6 MT by introducing high yielding rice varieties developed by Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) as well as commercial hybrid seeds and solar irrigation systems to farmers in the region.
“By 2020, the SRDP is expected to contribute an estimated 1.2 million MT of paddy rice to the national production which would make Samar Island as one of the major rice production areas of the country,” the DA chief said.