Joey Sablayceda: Zero endorsement from Cabinet for zero tariffs on food imports
Malacañang on Thursday clarified that no one in the Cabinet has endorsed suggestion to impose zero tariff on food imports to curve inflation.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Albay Rep. Joey Salceda reportedly claimed President Rodrigo Duterte will sign an executive order imposing zero tariff on imported fish, feed wheat, and corn and vegetables.
“I don’t know where Congressman Salceda got his information but what I know there is now discussion and different opinion,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
He said Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol opposed zero tariff because it would mean “war with domestic agricultural producers”.
“So there’s a possibility of reducing tariffs but no one in the Cabinet has told me that they will actually endorse zero tariffs. I just want to clarify that,” Roque said.
Roque said even Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez pushes for lower tariff but not to remove it.
“Kailangan po hanapan natin ng balanse iyan. So tingin ko iyong balanse eh doon naman sa sinabi ni Secretary Lopez. Babaan ang taripa pero hindi pupuwedeng alisin ang taripa (We need to look for balance. So I think the balance there is what Secretary Lopez has said: Lower the tariff but it should not be remove)” he said.
He said the government is now finding solutions to address the high prices of food and other basic commodities.
Roque said Duterte’s economic team has listened to former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s recommendations to reduce tariff on fish imports to zero.
Arroyo has also recommended to the National Food Authority to purchase 500,000 metric tons of well-milled rice and for the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to increase an additional 25 basis point its key rates.
“They listened to the suggestions of former president GMA and Speaker GMA but no one actually agreed that it should be done,” Roque said.
The inflation rate hit a five-year high at 5.7 percent in July due to the rise in the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. (PNA)