Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said there is not much to worry about 2015, when the ASEAN agreed to eliminate most import tariffs on intra-ASEAN trade because the Philippines already eliminated tariffs on most products in 2010.
Domingo said that for the few exceptions such as rice and sugar, tariff protection will remain in place beyond 2015.
The rice tariff will go from 40 percent to 35 percent. Sugar will have a bigger cut, from 15 percent to 5 percent, putting more pressure on the industry to boost competitiveness.
Domingo said tariffs were already eliminated for non-food items.
He said the government is trying to help small and medium enterprises with exporting so they can benefit from lower or zero tariffs in ASEAN.
The DTI chief's words contrast with statements from various industry groups, who say the elimination of remaining tariffs will make it tougher for Philippine industries to compete against ASEAN neighbors' more efficient farm and manufacturing industries, which have lower power and other costs as well.
ANC News Now, March 4, 2014