SPEAKER Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday called for the proper implementation of the Rice Tariffication Act or a law that will lift import restrictions on rice to ensure that it will not be a bane for Filipino rice farmers and the local rice sector.
“Now we can focus on its proper implementation so that everyone can and should benefit from the law,” Arroyo told reporters on the law that seeks to amend Republic Act (RA) No. 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996 to remove the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice importation and impose a 35-percent tariff on imports from Southeast Asian countries.
Arroyo also predicted that the new law will help cool down further the country’s inflation rate to ensure benefits for Filipino consumers after President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte signed it last Friday.
“I am happy that President Duterte has signed into law the Rice Tariffication Act. It will further help in easing the inflation which has hit the poor the most,” said Arroyo.
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, who is a co-author of the rice tarrification law, said badly needed funds will soon become readily available to palay farmers who have long been handicapped by lack of access to financing facilities and the means to enhance their skills and productivity through modern farming methods.
Villafuerte said the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) under the rice tariffication bill allocates 10% of its P10 billion allocation or P1 billion for credit to farmers and cooperatives, which will help the agriculture sector gain access to lending facilities.
He said the rice tariffication law, which will liberalize imports of the staple, will at the same time benefit consumers, who include farmers, as it will expand the access of Filipinos to cheap rice.
“This will, in turn, prevent a repeat of the 2018 inflation surge brought in large part by the supply shortfall and the subsequent retail price increase of rice,” said Villafuerte.
“Rice tariffication will benefit poor households the most, given that rice accounts for 20 percent of their consumption,” he added.
The Camarines Sur lawmaker recalled that inflation began to ease in the latter part of 2018 and is expected to drop even further this year following the decisive steps taken by President Duterte to remove administrative constraints on food imports and narrow the gap between farmgate and retail prices of rice and other foodstuff.