Comprehensive review of Rice Tariffication Law sought in Senate

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Senator Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution asking the Senate, particularly the Committees on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform, to conduct a consultative and comprehensive review of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).


Hontiveros, in filing Senate Resolution No. 956, noted that despite the support of  the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) and the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) efforts, provinces such as Biliran, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Samar, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar and the cities of Ormoc and Tacloban have experienced a decline in rice production. 


The senator also said the RTL and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) limited the buffer stock procurement only to palay from domestic sources unlike before its enactment.


“Technical smuggling of rice has led to considerable revenue losses estimated at P7.2-billion in 2023 with the government losing additional tariff revenue due to undervaluation and misclassification of rice imports,” Hontiveros said in the resolution. 


She also noted that in the 2024 National Expenditure Program, the NFA succeeded in procuring only 3.38 days of the target 15-day reserve. 


She also noted that in the same period, the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that, in no given day in 2022 did the National Food Authority (NFA) have the optimum level of rice buffer requirement of 300,000 metric tons (MT) per day. 


Despite the RTL, Hontiveros also ppointed out that only 14 percent of the estimated 10 million farmers and fisherfolk throughout the country are registered in the Registry of Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).


Studies also show that 7 out of 10 farmers are unbanked, based on the 2021 Financial Inclusion Survey of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).


This prevented them from availing of the benefits of RCEF and other assistance from the government, according to the senator.


She also noted that the credit provided by GFIs under the RCEF continues to be disbursed in the traditional rice producing areas of Northern and Central Luzon to the detriment of the new rice producing regions of Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Mindoro Province in MIMAROPA.


“Be it resolved, that the Senate lay the groundwork for an evidence-based and comprehensive review of the RTL, including the initial research and monitoring and evaluation work produced, to gather detailed information regarding PhilMech, the affected provinces and NFA’s procurement practices,” she said.


Hontiveros further emphasized the need for the hearing to be consultative, and include rice stakeholders, listening to business practices, and considering diverse rice procurement approaches “to ensure that the RTL fulfill its objective of enhancing the competitiveness of the rice sector and ensuring food security for the nation.”