Home » Customs & Trade » Bicameral committee OKs bill lifting rice import quotas

The Congress bicameral conference committee has approved the rice tariffication bill, which will replace quantitative restrictions (QR) on Philippine rice imports with tariffs and remove unnecessary government intervention in the rice market.

The two chambers of Congress on November 22 approved the passage of the rice tariffication bill, which amends Republic Act (RA) No. 8178, otherwise known as the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996. Once signed into law and enforced, rice tariffication is seen to solve food supply issues and improve agricultural productivity in the country.

Senate Committee on Agriculture chairperson Cynthia Villar told media after the bicameral conference committee meeting that the Senate version of the bill was the one adopted.

Under the Senate version, for the minimum access volume (MAV) committed by the Philippines to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the indicated rates in the applicable provisions of the WTO agreement on agriculture shall apply.

For rice imports from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, a 35% duty rate, pursuant to the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement or ATIGA, will apply.

For rice imports from non-ASEAN member states, the tariff will be 50% or the tariff equivalent calculated in accordance with the WTO agreement on agriculture upon expiration of the waiver relating to the special treatment for rice of the Philippines, or whichever is higher.

Under the rice tariffication measure, the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund will be allocated and disbursed to rice-producing areas, with 50% utilized as grant in aid to eligible farmers’ associations, and registered rice cooperatives and local government units or LGUs, in the form of rice farm equipment to improve farm mechanization.

Moreover, 30% of the fund will be used to develop, propagate, and promote inbred rice seeds to rice farmers; and 10% will be made available in the form of credit with minimal interest to rice farmers and cooperatives to be managed equally by Land Bank and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

The remaining 10% will be used for extension services divided between the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Agricultural Training Institute, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to teach farmers skills on rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, seed production, farm mechanization, and knowledge/technology transfer through farm schools nationwide.

“We view this as a positive development as the administration’s economic team exhausts all efforts to tame increases in the prices of goods. With only the President’s signature before rice tariffication becomes a law, we are making a big step in the realization of our agricultural reform agenda,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said in a statement.

Pernia said the bicam-approved bill addresses not only the tariffication of rice in compliance with the Philippines’ obligation to the WTO, but it also addresses food security by making cheaper rice more available and accessible to the consuming population.

“The economic team has always been mindful that food remains to be the major contributor to inflation. Efforts to address food supply concerns, especially rice, will definitely help bring down consumer prices,” he added.

The bill is expected to be ratified when Senate resumes session in December, and signed by President Rodrigo Duterte before the end of the year.

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