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Lahat makikinabang: Poe backs rice tariffication bill

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Senator Grace Poe is optimistic that the proposed rice tariffication program will lower the price of rice as well as promote farmers’ welfare.

Poe is a co-author of Senate Bill No. 1998 that seeks to lift quantitative restrictions (QR) or quota on rice importation by amending Republic Act 8178, as amended.

Under SBN 1998 or the Rice Tariffication bill, rice imports will be slapped a 35 percent tariff rate in lieu of quantitative restrictions that limits the volume of rice imports every year.

She said that the country’s direction of doing away with the import quota regime on rice is expected to bring down prices of Filipinos’ staple food.

“It will benefit farmers through a fund that provides subsidies to them,” said Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services.

Economic managers estimate that rice prices could go down to P30.30 per kilo, including transportation cost, once the quota on rice imports is removed and instead, a 35-percent tariff rate is imposed.

Poe said the measure is expected to result in tempering inflation, as food prices continue to be the main driver for the uptick in commodity prices.

“Sa pagpasa ng panukalang batas na ito, inaasahang kahit papaano ay mapipigilan ang hagupit ng inflation sa presyo ng bigas pati na rin ang nababalitang kakapusan sa supply ng bigas,” she said.

“Kung patuloy ang taas ng presyo ng gasolina, sana man lang sa kabilang banda maibaba natin ang presyo ng bigas na kinakain natin tatlong beses sa isang araw,” she said.

Poe added, “Sobra na ang paghihigpit ng sinturon ng ating mga kababayan.”

The QR on rice imports was imposed after the Philippines became a member of the World Trade Organization in 1995.

The country had secured several extensions of QR on rice imports and the last “waiver on the special treatment of rice” expired in June last year.

SBN 1998 also establishes a Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which will mainly be sourced from rice tariffs, to finance the procurement of farm machinery and equipment, irrigation, subsidies and credit to farmers and rice research to improve the competitiveness of the country’s rice sector.

“Nararapat lang na magkaroon ng ‘rice fund’ na manggagaling sa taripa ng imported na bigas,” Poe said.

“Dapat mabantayan ito nang maigi at masigurong mapupunta sa ikauunlad ng mga maliliit na magsasaka ng palay at hindi matulad sa coco levy fund na hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa natitikman ng mga magniniyog,” she said.

She referring to an oversight committee that will be constituted to review the fund periodically.

Inflation soared to a record high of 6.7% last month, with food and non-alcoholic beverages, which includes rice, contributing 9.7% to consumer prices.

Retail price of regular milled rice averaged P46 per kilo while well milled rice averaged P49 a kilo.

The bill, which is pending second reading in the Senate, has been certified urgent and a priority measure by Malacañang.