By Madelaine B. Miraflor
While Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol eagerly awaits the implementation of Rice Tariffication Law, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said there is currently an attempt from the Department of Agriculture (DA) to “weaken” the law, which will liberalize rice importation in the Philippines.
Last week, the harmonized version of Senate Bill 1998 and House Bill 7735, or the proposed Rice Tariffica–tion Law, was already sent to the Office of the President on January 15 and will lapse into law in the second week of February if President Rodrigo Duterte doesn’t veto it.
The law seeks to lift the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice imports and replace it with corresponding tariff.
Pernia said the DA’s failure to import more rice and other agriculture products on time last year, among others, dragged the Philippine economy to its slowest growth in three years and also caused a spike in inflation rate.
National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), which is also headed by Pernia, has been pushing for the liberalization of rice importation since last year, something that will only happen if the Rice Tariffication Law takes effect.
The agency said the entry of more imported rice, which is cheaper than locally produced rice, into the country will help ease inflation, which rose to a nearly decade high last year.
Months later, NEDA found itself still pushing for the Rice Tariffica–tion Law, which now awaits the signature of Duterte.
“There was an attempt [from the DA] to weaken the Rice Tariffication law. That’s known. They want NFA [National Food Authority] to retain its regulatory function,” Pernia said.
The NFA is currently tasked to limit the volume of imported rice that goes into the country and must based its decision to import on the estimated gap between supply and domestic consumption.