The Philippine government has so far collected P5.9 billion in tariffs from 1.43 million metric tons (MT) of rice stocks imported by private traders, following the enactment of the Rice Tariffication Law that liberalized imports of the grain, preliminary data from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) showed.
Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, in a report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, revealed that BOC collection of rice import tariffs from Subic Bay port was the highest at P1.37 billion.
This was followed by the Port of Manila with P978.51 million, then by Manila International Container Port with P942.76 million, according to Guerrero during a recent Department of Finance (DOF) executive committee meeting.
Cagayan de Oro took in P754.13 million, and Davao P703.93 million, preliminary BOC data show.
Republic Act (RA) No. 11203, also known as the Rice Tariffication Law or Rice Liberalization Law, was signed and approved last February 14.
Dominguez described the shift from quantitative restrictions to tariffs on rice imports under the new law as a “proud” accomplishment of the present administration and DOF, as it took more than 30 years under various administrations before Congress approved the measure.
Liberalizing rice imports, he said, will not only make quality rice more affordable and accessible to Filipino families, but will also lower the country’s inflation rate, revolutionize the agriculture sector, and help farmers become more productive and competitive in the global economy.
Dominguez said rice tariffication has proved to be challenging because it was “a politically difficult reform to pass.”
DOF said liberalizing rice imports has led to a reduction of P10 per kilogram in the retail price of the staple last summer.
RA 11203 also created the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) to help palay growers and farmers’ cooperatives transition to a new rice regime.
RCEF will be used to provide farmers tools and equipment; assistance in the production, promotion, and distribution of certified rice seeds; upgrading of post-harvest storage facilities; credit assistance; irrigation support; and research and development (R&D) support.
Section 13(c) of the rice tariffication law states that 10% of the P10-billion RCEF shall be made available to rice farmers and cooperatives in the form of credit facility, with minimal interest rates and minimum collateral requirements.
The rest of the RCEF will be set aside for rice farm machinery and equipment; rice seed development, propagation and promotion; and rice extension services, as provided under the law.
On top of paying tariffs, rice importers will be required to secure sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances from the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry, which assumed the food safety regulation function of the National Food Authority under the rice tariffication law.
These requirements will ensure that rice imports are free from pests and diseases that could affect public health and local farm production.