Pangilinan warns of another rice crisis due to ‘lackluster’ rice tariff law
MANILA, Philippines — A “triple whammy” may cause another rice crisis, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan warned Tuesday.
Pangilinan recalled that when the global rice crisis hit in 2008, the international trading price of rice jumped from US$300 per metric ton to US$1,200 per metric ton in just four months.
During that time, he said, the spike in rice prices was attributed to trade restrictions by major suppliers, panic buying by several large importers, a weak dollar, and record spike in oil prices.
“This time, a triple whammy may cause another rice crisis: the Rice Tariffication Law’s lackluster implementation; terrible drought now being felt by our rice exporters in Thailand and Vietnam; and the still undetermined and uncalculated effects of the coronavirus outbreak, particularly on China, also a rice-producing and rice-consuming country. As well as the impact on prices of goods,” the senator said in a privilege speech.
“This means that the dire impact of the lackluster implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law has not only cast its gloom on the country’s farmers but is threatening consumers as well.”
Pangilinan then offered several proposals to cushion the impact of this possible scenario.
One is the creation of an inter-agency task force on rice security composed of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of Finance and the Department of Trade Industry to oversee the swift implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law.
Signed in 2019, the law replaced the quantitative import restrictions on rice with tariffs, which opened the country’s doors to unimpeded importation of rice.
“Get this task force to review the implementation of the law and its effects on the rice industry, on the farmers and farmworkers, and even the NFA (National Food Authority) employees, and submit its findings immediately to the Senate,” the senator said.
Pangilinan said authorities should also monitor “possible collusion” between the Bureau of Customs and some rice traders in the technical smuggling and undervaluation of rice imports.
“File non-bailable charges of economic sabotage and jail the smugglers. Get the Philippine Competition Commission to go after profiteers and rice-price manipulators,” he said.
Enforce the law correctly, by providing, among others, compensation to affected rice farmers, and speeding up the government’s procurement of local rice, the senator said.
Pangilinan lamented that instead of making the country self-reliant on rice, it has become “more import-dependent.”
“We are on our way to becoming rice beggars when we should have been reaping the fruits of a bountiful agriculture landscape,” he said.
“This is an extremely serious concern that should be addressed urgently not just by the administration, but everyone who eats, as it will throw vulnerable sectors into a worse state of poverty and hunger,” he stressed.
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