NFA says not against rice tax but seeks 'clarification' on some provisions


Posted at Feb 22 2019 06:00 PM

MANILA - The National Food Authority (NFA) on Friday clarified it was not against the newly enacted rice tariffication law but raised "clarifications" on some of its provisions.

The NFA wanted to clarify the removal of its regulatory functions and the definition of "buffer stock," which was limited to addressing needs for emergencies and calamities under the measure, officer-in-charge (OIC) administrator Tomas Escarez said in a statement.

The agency has sent letters to concerned lawmakers appealing for a veto on certain provisions prior to the signing of Republic Act 11203, he said. 

“We fully support and we abide by the President’s approval of the rice tariffication law. But as long-time workers in government and in fulfilling the mandate of food security for our country, we only wanted to point out the implications of some provisions in the proposed bill, before it was signed into law,” Escarez said. 

Its regulatory functions were also not "explicitly" transferred to any other government agency, giving firms freedom to conduct grains business without any rules to follow, the NFA said.

Escarez said without rules and regulations, it would be a "chaotic" situation. 

If NFA's mandate to intervene in the market is removed, "how can the government ensure rice safety in the domestic market?," Escarez said. 

Meanwhile, it is "business as usual" for the NFA until the law is finalized, he said.

Last year, the NFA grappled with declining rice stocks. 

Some local farmers feared the effect of removing restrictions on imported rice. But economic managers said the measure could help lower the prices of rice in the market.

Duterte had certified the rice tax measure as urgent as it is expected to result in lower rice prices and help tame inflation.

He had said the measure would address the urgent need to improve availability of rice in the country, prevent artificial rice shortages, reduce the prices of rice in the market, and curtail corruption and cartel domination in the rice industry.