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Prepare for influx of cheap imported rice, farmers told

LUCENA CITY — With the passage of the rice tariffication bill, the farmers should exert efforts to be more competitive against the expected flood of cheap imported rice, Sen. Cynthia Villar said.

“Even if the government has its program but if the farmers themselves will not fight it out … the farmers should be more competitive. It cannot be done by the government alone. It has to be done with the help of the farmers,” Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said in an interview here Saturday afternoon.

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Lower rice prices

The senator said amid the rising inflation in the country, the price of rice might be lowered once the bill was signed into law due to the influx of cheaper rice from abroad.

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Villar was guest at the annual assembly of senior citizens from the province 1st and 2nd district held at Quezon Convention Center here.

On Thursday, the bicameral conference committee approved the rice tariffication bill, which aims to replace the quantitative restrictions on rice imports with tariffs.

Rice Fund

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.

Villar said the bill would hopefully be signed into law before the year ends.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier certified the bill as urgent.

The fund will be used for farm mechanization and enhancement of farmer’s technical know-how, trainings, financial literacy and access to cheap credit.

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Villar explained that the country had no other option but to liberalize its imports after the lifting of the quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice after three extensions granted by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In 2014, the WTO allowed the Philippines to extend its QR on rice until June 30, 2017, to give local farmers more time to prepare for free trade in light of the government’s goal of achieving rice self-sufficiency.

Sanction from WTO

Villar argued that if the Philippines would not liberalize, there is a corresponding sanction from the WTO.

“We don’t know, which of our exports will be hit. That’s why this liberalization but with a tariff to protect our farmers. And the tariff will proceed to the Rice Fund to make our farmers more competitive,” the senator explained.

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TAGS: Cynthia Villar, Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, rice importation, rice prices, Rice Supply
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