Pimentel: NFA won’t be only source of cheap rice with tariffication bill
MANILA, Philippines – Once the rice tariffication bill is enacted into law, low-priced rice will no longer have to come from the National Food Authority (NFA) alone, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said Wednesday.
Pimentel made the statement after Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the NFA would stop selling cheap rice once the proposed measure is signed into law.
“Under the bill, NFA will concentrate on keeping buffer stock of rice,” Pimentel told reporters in a text message.
“The idea is to have low-priced rice in the market through competition. Low-priced rice doesn’t have to be NFA-imported,” he added.
Pimentel noted the objective of the law is to “allow competitors for NFA.”
According to the senator, NFA has become “too complacent” given its monopoly on rice.
“Naka-idlip ang NFA kaya gumawa ang Kongreso ng radikal na hakbang para magising sa katotohanan ang NFA,” Pimentel said.
Piñol earlier said the rice variant being sold by the NFA at P27 a kilo would have to be discontinued as the agency will be forced to stop selling as a result of the expected liberalization of the rice industry.
President Rodrigo Duterte is set to sign into the law the rice tariffication bill, which will liberalize the rice industry by removing the quota on rice imports.
Under the bill, NFA’s role will be limited to keeping the country’s buffer stock for emergency purposes and buying un-milled rice (palay) from local farmers.
Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero said the provisions on the safeguard and assistance to farmers should be given equal importance in the enactment of the law.
“Prices will go down but we also have to give safeguards and support to our farmers,” Escudero told reporters in a text message.
“It’s a balancing act because prices have to be low for consumers but, at the same time, we should help our farmers make a living,” Escudero said. /kga
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