MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an administrative order aimed at taming food inflation.
AO 13, signed by President Duterte on Sept. 21, removes non-tariff barriers and streamlines administrative procedures on the importation of agricultural products.
The order mandates the National Food Authority, Sugar Regulatory Administration, in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry to “undertake immediate measures to remove administrative constraints and other non-tariff barriers on the importation of agricultural products.
The order will also streamline procedures and requirements in the accreditation of importers and minimize the processing time of applications for importation, and exempt traders that are already accredited.
The order also seeks to facilitate the importation of certain agriculture products beyond their authorized minimum access volume, and liberalize issuance of permits and accreditation of traders who want to import rice to break monopoly.
It shall also temporarily allow, as may be necessary, the direct importation by sugar-using industries to lower their input.
The AO also authorizes the NFA Council to approve additional rice importation beyond the MAV commitment, which refers to the amount of imports allowed to enter the country with lower tariffs.
Meanwhile, the DA, shall issue the certificate of necessity to allow the importation of adequate volumes of fish to augment the 17,000 metric tons of fish imports already distributed in the market.
The Bureau of Customs is also directed to prioritize the unloading and release of agricultural imports. The DA and DTI shall take “concrete steps” to improve logistics, transport, distribution and storage of agricultural products to reduce input costs.
The President has also signed three memoranda to expedite the release of agricultural products to the market and ensure price stability.
Memorandum Order 26 orders the DA and DTI to adopt measures to reduce the gap between farmgate prices and retail prices of agricultural products.
MO 27, meanwhile, directs the DA, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to “adopt measures to ensure the efficient and seamless delivery” of imported agricultural and fishery products from ports to markets.
MO 28 directs the NFA to immediately release existing rice stocks in its warehouses.
Economist and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda earlier said the order would be a strong first step to liberalize rice imports and has the potential to slow inflation to 6.1 percent in September from 6.4 percent in August.
Rice, the main driver of food prices, saw an inflation of 7.1 percent in August, while the headline rate accelerated to 6.4 percent, exceeding government and market forecasts.