By Ellson Quismorio
The chairman of the House Committee on Economic Affairs rejected on Monday calls to repeal the controversial Republic Act (RA) 11203, also known as the Rice Tariffication Law.
AAMBIS-Owa Party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, a Deputy Speaker during the previous 17th Congress, reckoned that repealing the relatively new law “would threaten the country’s food security and might do further damage than good.”
“Ensuring food security should go hand in hand with protecting the welfare of our farmers. We understand their plight. We need to find a balance between protecting our farmers and protecting Filipino consumers,” she said in a statement.
What’s actually needed, according to Garin, is a “reassessment of the law…for us to identify the gaps to fill.”
She also backed Malacañang’s suspension of rice imports, which, according to critics, RA 11203 “liberalized” to the detriment of 2.5 million Filipino rice farmers.
The law essentially did away with the old quantitative restrictions on rice imports in exchange of tariffs, resulting to the influx of rice that is cheaper than the locally produced grain. This means that local farmers have had a difficult time selling their rice at favorable prices.
Garin suggested to temporarily suspend the implementation of the measure while both chambers of Congress work on incorporating stronger safeguards that will protect palay (unhusked rice) farmers from the influx of cheaper imported rice.
She further called on the expertise of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to monitor the fluctuating prices of palay and rice and ensure that “hoarding” avoided.
“We remain optimistic that an improved version of the Rice Tariffication Law will be ready before we reach the first-year mark since its enactment,” Garin said.
Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite earlier called for the trashing of RA 11203, saying it’s the only way to give relief to hapless Filipino rice farmers.
“Now even government data is showing that farmers are going bankrupt because of rice tariffication. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said that a kilo of palay was sold at an average of P15.96 during the third week of September, down 1.4 percent and 30.1 percent from week-ago and year-ago levels, respectively,” said Zarate, a Senior Deputy Minority Leader.