'Rice tariff law amendments to keep rice afordable, accessible '

Romualdez: Rice tariff law amendments to keep rice affordable, accessible

/ 08:20 PM May 14, 2024

Rice tariff law amendments to keep rice affordable, accessible, says Romualdez

(INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE)

MANILA, Philippines — House of Representatives Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez believes the proposed amendments to the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) is a pledge to Filipinos, that the government will do everything possible to make food accessible.

In a statement on Tuesday, shortly after House Bill (HB) No. 10381 was approved on second reading, Romualdez said the proposed changes to the RTL will ensure competitiveness in the rice sector.

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HB No. 10381 seeks to amend Republic Act No. 11203 or the RTL, by reinstating some of the National Food Authority (NFA) functions, which lawmakers believe would make the market more competitive as the NFA can monitor warehouses and in a way, regulate rice prices.

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“This amendment is crucial in enhancing the competitiveness and resilience of our rice sector, ensuring that it can withstand challenges and continue to thrive,” Romualdez said.

“This bill is not just a policy change; it is a powerful pledge to every Filipino. We are committed to ensuring that rice — our staple food — remains affordable and accessible to all. By refining the RTL, we address its shortcomings and provide our farmers with the support they need to thrive in an increasingly competitive market,” he added.

Earlier, during the plenary session, HB No. 10381 was approved via viva voce or voice voting.

Under the proposal, a new Section 5 in R.A. No. 8178 would be place which would give NFA the “authority to oversee and ensure compliance with all pertinent standards and regulations, leveraging its established expertise and nationwide network to uphold the national interest, in rice buffer stocking and food security”,

R.A. 8178 is the Agricultural Tariffication Act, which was amended by the RTL in 2019.

If the bill is signed into law, the Agriculture Secretary can, upon the recommendation of the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC) or Local Price Coordinating Council (LPCC), declare a food security emergency due to the following reasons:

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  • shortage in the supply of rice
  • sustained increase in the price of rice
  • extraordinary increase in the price of rice

When a food security emergency is declared, the NFA would be allowed to buy from local farmers — or import, as a last resort — and eventually directly sell cheap rice to the public.Romualdez believes the amendments can bring down rice prices by P10 to P15 per kilogram by June, if enacted.

“I commend the approval on second reading of the bill amending the five-year-old Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), marking a significant stride towards strengthening our rice industry and ensuring broader access to affordable, high-quality rice for all,” Romualdez said.

While the mood at the House regarding the proposed amendments was optimistic, some senators fear that giving back some of NFA’s mandates might lead to corruption again.

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Senators Cynthia Villar and Sonny Angara in previous statements have raised concerns about allowing the NFA to directly import and sell rice again.

TAGS: rice, rice tariff law

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