Bicam panel okays rice tariffication bill
The bicameral conference committee approved on Thursday the rice tariffication bill, which aims to replace import restrictions on rice with tariffs, lifting the quantitative restrictions on rice imports.
The bill also earmarks P10 billion for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or Rice Fund, which will be allotted to the provision of farm machinery and equipment, seed production, and training on rice farming, among others.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said the bill will hopefully be signed into law before the year ends. President Rodrigo Duterte earlier certified the bill as urgent.
Villar said amid the rising inflation in the country, the price of rice may be lowered once the bill is signed into law.
“Talagang ang rice mas mura sa abroad kaysa dito sa Philippines. Kung they will do it the right way, mas mura kaya lang hindi doing it the right way kaya mahal pa rin,” he told reporters.
(Rice is really more affordable abroad than in the Philippines. If they will do it the right way it is cheaper, but they are not doing it the right way so it is still expensive.)
The senator brushed off concerns that the bill may end up as a disadvantage to farmers.
She said the bill also directs the National Food Authority to buy rice from local farmers.
Under the bill, 50 percent of the Rice Fund will go to the Philippine Center for Post-Harvest Development and Modernization (PhilMech) to provide farmers with machineries and equipment.
Thirty percent will be allocated to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), which will be used for the development, propagation, and promotion of inbred rice seeds to rice farmers and organization of rice farmers into seed growers associations engaged in seed production and trade.
Ten percent, meanwhile, will be made available in the form of credit facility with minimal interest rates and with minimum collateral requirements to rice farmers and cooperatives.
Another 10 percent will fund extension services by PhilMech, Agricultural Training Institute, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) for programs for teaching skills on rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, and seed production, among others.
Villar said the Senate version of the bill also has a portion of the excess rice tariff revenues for the titling of agricultural lands, expanded crop insurance program on rice, and the crop diversification program.
She said the bill, if enacted into law, will likewise provide a more focused function for the National Food Authority to buy palay from local farmers. /ee
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.