Senators told: House open to queries on rice tariff law amendments

Senators told: House open to questions on rice tariff law amendments

/ 11:57 AM May 15, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — Nueva Ecija 1st District Rep. Mikaela Angela Suansing has assured senators that her communication lines would be open to questions on the proposed Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) amendments. She said that the Senate and the House of Representatives can work together to lower rice prices.

Suansing said in a press briefing that the Senate can help the House improve House Bill (HB) No. 10381, which contains the proposed RTL amendments.

“I would like to again appeal to our friends in the Senate to please pass the […] amendments to the Rice Tariffication Law.  From our side, we have been working very hard on the part of the House, we held marathon hearings, deliberations in the plenary, so that the debates would be finished,” Suansing said on Tuesday.


“Please, please, please po, and our communication lines are open. We are here, anything we can do for us to work together, to craft the best version of the bill. Our communication lines are open,” she added.


According to Suansing, the RTL amendments would make the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund more effective in boosting farm productivity.

Under HB No. 10381, some of the National Food Authority (NFA) functions will be restored, like monitoring warehouses and regulating rice prices, especially during emergencies. The NFA is also mandated to buy local grains, with importation being the last option.

READ: PH still top rice importer

“It (amendments) would greatly benefit the poorest of the poor families. Allowing them to gain access to cheaper rice in the market. So, we appeal, from a personal stand and as the representative of the first district of Nueva Ecija, which is the rice granary of the country,” Suansing said.

“So I wish our friends in the Senate would help pass the proposed amendments to the Rice Tarification Law so that the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund will be more effective in improving the productivity and assistance to the agricultural sector and to our farmers,” she added.

Suansing’s appeal comes after some senators feared that giving back some of NFA’s mandates might lead to corruption again.  According to Senator Cynthia Villar, the RTL was crafted for the purpose of liberalizing trade and preventing corrupt activities in NFA.


READ: Scrutinize plan to re-allow NFA to buy and sell rice, senators say

“I’m worried about giving [the mandate] back to the NFA. I’ve not seen its sincerity. It has not proven itself to be taking care of the welfare of the rice farmers and the consumers,” she said.

During Tuesday’s session, HB No. 10381 was approved on second reading via viva voce or voice voting.

If the proposal is enacted into law, a new Section 5 in R.A. No. 8178 would be placed, giving 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.

The Agriculture Secretary can also, 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:

  • 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.

For his part, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez believes the amendments can bring down rice prices by P10 to P15 per kilogram by June if enacted.

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

TAGS: Rice Tariffication Act amendments, rice tariffication law

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