By Chino S. Leyco
The Bureau of Customs has collected P6 billion in additional government revenues from rice tariffs since the enactment of the rice tariffication law in February this year, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.
In a statement, the DOF said the private sector has already imported 1.43 million metric tons of rice stocks since the Rice Liberalization Act was signed into law by President Duterte on February 14 this year to ease supply and reign in inflation.
The Customs bureau reported to the DOF that the volume of privately-shipped rice stocks is worth P5.9 billion in tariffs.
Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero revealed that the Subic Bay port raised the highest rice tariff collection with P1.37 billion, followed by the Port of Manila at P978.51 million and the Manila International Container Port with P942.76 million.
The Port of Cagayan de Oro, meanwhile, collected P754.13 million in tariffs from rice imports, while the Port of Davao collected P703.93 million.
Dominguez has described the rice liberalization law, which shifted from quantitative restrictions (QRs) to tariffs on rice imports, as a “proud” accomplishment of the Duterte presidency and the DOF, given that it took more than 30 years under various administrations to get the Congress to approve this game-changing reform.
Liberalizing rice imports, he said, will not only make quality rice more affordable and accessible to Filipino families, but will also lower the country’s inflation rate, revolutionize the agriculture sector and help farmers become more productive and competitive in the global economy.
Dominguez said rice tariffication has proved to be challenging because it was “a politically difficult reform to pass.”
Liberalizing rice imports has made the staple food more affordable to Filipinos, making retail prices this summer cheaper by P10 per kilo.
The law also created the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) to help palay growers and farmers’ cooperatives transition to a new rice regime.
RCEF will be used to provide farmers tools and equipment, assistance in the production, promotion, and distribution of certified rice seeds, upgrading of post-harvest storage facilities, credit assistance, irrigation support, and research and development (R&D) support.
Section 13(c) of the rice tariffication law provides that 10 percent of the P10-billion RCEF shall be made available in the form of credit facility with minimal interest rates and with minimum collateral requirements to rice farmers and cooperatives.
The rest of the RCEF will be set aside for rice farm machinery and equipment; rice seed development, propagation and promotion; and rice extension services, as provided under the law.
On top of paying tariffs, rice importers will be required to secure sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSIC) from the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), which assumed the food safety regulation function of the National Food Authority (NFA) under the rice tariffication law.
This requirement will ensure that rice imports are free from pests and diseases that could affect public health and local farm production.