Duterte signs into law rice tariffication bill

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2019 08:18 PM | Updated as of Feb 16 2019 03:56 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law the rice tariffication bill, his spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Friday. 

The law will replace the present quotas on rice imports with tax.

Local farmers had opposed the rice tariffication bill, fearing it would flood the market with cheaper rice from abroad. 

The law will also reduce government's role in rice importation and lead to more rice imports by the private sector. 

Duterte had certified the bill 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.

To assist local farmers who are expected to be hit by the removal of rice import restrictions, the measure provides for a rice competitiveness enhancement fund or “rice fund.”

Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino earlier said the measure is key to bringing down rice prices by P2 to P7 per kilo.

He said imposing tariffs on rice would result in slower inflation, and provide government with more funds to support farmers.

He said the central bank estimates the measure could cut inflation rate by 0.7 percentage point in 2019. 

Aside from closely monitoring the implementation of the new law, the government should also craft measures to "temper the impact" of its tax reform law, said opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who previously headed the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.

"Fuel price increases have pushed prices of commodities up and brought extra cost to the farmers, who are now spending more for transportation cost," said Pangilinan, who served as former President Benigno Aquino III's Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.

"Without tempering the impact of the TRAIN Law on the farmers and the industry, then the farmers and the industry would face a double whammy that would imperil their existence," he said.