Rice tariffication seen to benefit farmers
Although the enactment of the rice tariffication law has caused hardships to farmers, it would eventually benefit them in the long run, Sen. Cynthia Villar said on Saturday.
“When problems come, we will solve them one at a time. When you change the system, there are really birth pains,” she said in an interview over radio station dwIZ.
“In the long run, this is very good,” said Villar, the main Senate proponent of Republic Act No. 11203, signed into law in February, that replaced quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports with tariffs.
It’s really necessary
The law amended the 20-year-old Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996 and aimed to make the Filipino staple food affordable to consumers but caused a price drop that proved devastating to farmers.
But tariffication, Villar said, was really necessary because the Philippines was not rice sufficient and needed to import 1.5 million metric tons of rice every year.
The law also created the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which would get P10 billion a year from rice tariffs, to help farmers modernize and become more competitive.
The RCEF would be used to provide training, equipment, and other forms of assistance to farmers, she said.
Mechanization, for example, is expected to bring down the cost of palay since it will reduce labor costs while better seeds will increase farmers’ harvests.
“We can’t not be competitive because this is the age of liberalization. There will come a time when all will be liberalized, so our farmers have to be competitive,” Villar said.
Competitiveness is expected to make farming more efficient and is part of the country’s commitment to World Trade Organization (WTO) guidelines.
“In the first place, we made a commitment that we would liberalize after 22 years. It was not even 22 years, we extended it by two years,” she said.
The enactment of RA 11203, however, has caused the influx of cheap imports that plunged rice prices to levels detrimental to farmers.
The situation became so dire that President Duterte initially said he would stop rice importation during the harvest season, but later changed his mind.
Meanwhile, the elite Makati Business Club lauded the President for deciding to maintain rice import liberalization.
“Makati Business Club supports the decision of President Duterte and his economic managers to maintain the rice liberalization policy even as they help farmers by improving mitigation measures and investigating reports of hoarding,” the group said in a statement on Saturday.—WITH A REPORT FROM ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL
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