Duterte says he can hike rice tariffs if needed

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 18 2019 10:30 AM | Updated as of Nov 18 2019 01:10 PM

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MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte said he can order the increase of rice tariff rates to help local farmers cope with falling prices of the staple grain.

"I can always order the higher tariffs if needed. Binabalanse ko lang," he told ABS-CBN News' Ted Failon in an exclusive interview.

Local rice growers have been complaining that the new tariff-based regime on imports of the staple grain caused prices to go down, hurting their income.

The government pushed for tariffs in place of import quotas under the Rice Tariffication Law last year to bring down prices as the cost of the staple pushed inflation to near 10-year highs.

Duterte admitted that he was "conscious" of the fact that the rice tariffication law would create a "problem" among local producers of the staple grain but emphasized that his main priority is to ensure that Filipinos are "assured of rice always."

"My main concern is that there must be rice at any given time," he said.

"It's an assurance actually, kasi kung makita ng mga Pilipino na medyo mababa na [ang supply], panic starts. And that is what we are trying to avoid," he added.

(If Filipinos see that the supply of rice is dwindling, panic starts.)