By Chino S. Leyco
Policymakers have finally signed the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11203, threshing out details on the effective rollout of the new law liberalizing the importation, exportation, and trading of rice as well as the lifting of the quantitative import restriction on Filipinos’ staple food.
With the issuance of Joint Memorandum Circular No. 01-2019 by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Budget and Management, the final draft of the IRR earlier approved by the National Food Authority (NFA) Council has been adopted for implementation.
“We celebrate this milestone for the agriculture sector. All concerned agencies, including NEDA, are duty bound to implement this historic law. In moving forward, we all have the long-term goal of modernizing the rice industry and improving the lives of all Filipinos, especially farmers, in our minds,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said.
Inputs from a series of public consultations organized by the DA with its stakeholders in Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, Mindanao, and Visayas region, as well as online consultations led by NEDA, have been incorporated into the final version of the IRR.
Among the salient provisions in the IRR are guidelines on the President’s powers and the enforcement of safeguard measures in case of emergency situations like the sudden rise and drop in domestic prices.
The IRR likewise provides guidance on the reorganization of the NFA, following the repeal of its regulatory powers and the change of its functions to maintenance and management of the country’s buffer stocks.
The NFA Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, will likewise commission a study that will determine NFA’s optimal buffer stock for emergency and relief purposes. Prior to the completion of the study, the NFA will continue to maintain its current buffer stock level ranging from 15 to 30 days based on a daily national rice consumption of 32,593 metric tons per day.
The unused grain rice stocks will be unloaded and sold in the domestic market at the prevailing market price or even at a slightly lower rate as long as this would cover storage logistics costs.
The IRR also details the establishment of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) and how the P10-billion fund from the General Appropriations Act will be transferred directly to implementing agencies.
Similarly, the document also sets the guidelines on the allocation of the tariff revenues in excess of P10 billion. This will be tapped to provide direct financial assistance to rice farmers adversely affected by the new rice import regime.
While the IRR takes effect 15 days after its publication, self-executing provisions of the law are now being enforced.
Concerned government agencies, such as the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Plant Industry of DA, no longer require the NFA permit, license, or registration for trade and importation of rice. The only requirement to import and trade rice is the phytosanitary import clearance (SPSIC), which can be obtained from the Bureau of Plant Industry.