Gov’t urged: Stop begging for rice import quota
DAGUPAN CITY – An official of the party-list group Abono has called on the government to stop negotiating for another extension of the quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice with the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying it was “useless.”
Rosendo So, Abono chairman, said WTO had already granted the government a QR on rice extension from 2006 to 2012 but this was never used until it expired on June 30. QR allows the Philippine government to impose higher tariff on rice imports beyond a certain volume.
Before the QR on rice expired, the Philippines had a minimum access volume (MAV) of 350,000 metric tons for rice imports, subject to a 40-percent duty. Imports outside of the MAV were levied a 50-percent tariff.
During a hearing conducted on Wednesday by the House committee on agriculture and food, So said Butil Representative Agapito Guanlao, chairman of the House committee on food security, found that the MAV for rice since 2006 was never used by the government.
He said this was because rice importation from 2006 to 2011 was coursed through a special rice importation allocation of the National Food Authority (NFA), with the Department of Finance shouldering the tariff.
No added funds
“If the rice importation from 2006 to 2011 utilized the MAV, the Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (Acef) could have accumulated funds [from the tariff] to help local farmers,” So said.
He said that with the country’s success in its rice self-sufficiency program, the 350,000 MT MAV is now irrelevant.
“[Agriculture Assistant Secretary Dante] De Lima said the country would only be importing 100,000 MT of rice next year because the country is already on track with its rice self-sufficiency program,” So said.
He said he agreed with Gilbert Lauengco, special assistant to NFA Administrator Angelito Banayo, when he said the government should not pursue the QR extension.
Lauengco also said during the hearing that Thailand wanted the Philippines to import 650,000 MT of Thai rice before its government could agree to a QR extension.
“But why should we import from Thailand when the price of rice there is $540 (P22,447) per metric ton, compared to the price in Vietnam, which is only $420 (P17,459) per metric ton?” So said. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon