House OKs bill amending Rice Tariffication Law

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  • The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the bill amending the Rice Tariffication Law
  • With a vote of 231 affirmative, three negative, and one abstention, House Bill No. 10381 was approved on May 21 during the Lower House’s regular session
  • HB 10381 will amend R.A. 8178, or the Agricultural Tariffication Act, as amended by R.A. 11203

The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the bill amending the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

With a vote of 231 affirmative, three negative, and one abstention, House Bill No. 10381 was approved on May 21 during the Lower House’s regular session.

HB 10381 substituted various bills filed seeking to either repeal or amend Republic Act (R.A.) No. 11203 or the RTL.

The Lower House expedited the approval of the bill after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on May 6 said he would certify as urgent measures seeking to amend the RTL to lower rice prices.

READ: House approves amended Rice Tariffication Law on 2nd reading

HB 10381 will amend R.A. 8178, or the Agricultural Tariffication Act, as amended by R.A. 11203.

The RTL, or An Act Liberalizing the Importation, Exportation, and Trading of Rice, Lifting for the Purpose the Quantitative Import Restriction on Rice, and for Other Purposes, was signed on February 15, 2019 with the aim of bringing down the cost of the staple.

HB 10381 will give the National Food Authority (NFA) the authority to stabilize the price and supply of rice during food security emergencies as granted by the secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The NFA will have the authority to oversee and ensure compliance of all grain warehouses. The bill will also reinstate NFA’s authority to regulate foreign investment in the rice and corn industries.

Once the measure is enacted into law, it would increase the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) under RA 11203 from P10 billion to P15 billion and extend it for another six years, with its mechanization component expanded to include the construction and enhancement of postharvest and processing facilities.

The DA during a Committee on Agriculture and Food hearing on May 6 urged Congress to restore the NFA’s function as a rice price stabilizer and increase its fund allocation for programs to enhance rice production and farmers’ incomes.

While recognizing benefits of RTL on the productivity and incomes of farmers, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. earlier said changes to the RTL are needed in view of climate change that shortened the frequency of El Niño events to three to five years.

Given the lack of significant investments in agricultural infrastructure over the past 27 years, DA said it supports the extension of RTL and the increase of RCEF.

In the Senate, two bills seeking amendments to RA 11230 are still pending at the committee level.