Villar counters Piñol: NFA can still sell cheap rice
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Cynthia Villar clapped back at Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol for claiming that the National Food Authority (NFA) would no longer be able to sell rice at a low price once the Rice Tariffication Bill had been enacted.
In a statement issued on Friday, Villar that it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who gave the assurance that NFA would still sell cheap rice even with the impending enactment of the proposal.
“President Duterte said that even with rice tariffication and liberalization of the rice industry, the NFA shall continue to provide the public particularly the less fortunate with rice that is affordable and safe,” Villar said.
“Once the law is passed the NFA will be directed to buy palay from our local farmers and together with Department of Agriculture to focus on developing cost- efficient system that will help reduce the production cost of locally-produced rice and stabilize rice prices,” she added.
Accoroding to previous reports, Duterte will soon sign the Rice Tariffication Bill into law, nearly a month after the bicameral conference committee approved it.
Under the measure, the quantitative restrictions on rice imports will be lifted. This will allow private traders to import grains from the country of their choice — not limited to grains from local farmers.
According to Piñol, however, that NFA will not be able to sell rice at P27 per kilo after its current supplies run out, as its role will be limited to buying palay from local farmers and ensuring that the country has a buffer stock for emergency purposes.
“The moment that all of NFA’s rice imports are sold in the market, there will be no more rice priced at P27 [a kilo],” Piñol said. “NFA will turn into a welfare agency and it will be in huge debt. The P27 rice variant is not realistic and should have been removed a long time ago.”
According to Villar, the measure will help local farmers, as the rice subsidy of the Department of Social Welfare and Development worth P28 billion will be bought from local farmers. Also, the revenues from the tariff will be allotted for the development of the country’s farming industry.
“The proceeds from the tariff will be given to the farmers in the amount of P10B a year for the next 6 years to make the farmers competitive by mechanization (P5B) better seed production (P3B) cheaper credit from Landbank and DBP (P1B) and training thru ATI, Philmech,Philrice and TESDA (P1B),” Villar explained.
“The Philippines has to liberalize the importation of rice so the Philippine Congress passed the law on Rice Tarriffication to protect the Filipino farmers from imported rice. The tariff will be 35% on rice imports from Asean countries as per agreement and 50% from the rest of the world,” she added. /atm
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