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Cabinet more concerned with inflation than plight of rice farmers – Dar

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Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the government has decided to defer the implementation of safeguard duties on rice imports.

“I presented the proposal to the Cabinet and their decision (is that) there might be an inflationary effect,” said Dar.

Dar had previously agreed to invoke Republic Act (RA) 8800, or the Safeguard Measures Act, to impose a 30-percent to 80-percent duty on imported rice.

Palay prices have bombed after the Rice Tariffication Law and removed quantitative restrictions on rice imports and imposed a 35 percent tariff on imports from Southeast Asia.

Dar said there will be a meeting of the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) on October 24 to include discussion on the proposed general safeguard duty on rice import.

In view of the declining palay prices since the rice tariffication law took effect in March, the government will be giving P5,000 cash assistance to affected farmers tilling one hectare and below.

Dar, on the sidelines of the ongoing Philippines-India Trade Consultations held at Shangri-la Makati on Friday, said the cash assistance is a one-time cash-out and this will be taken from the tariff being collected out of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

Around P3 billion will be needed for the 600,000 rice farmer-beneficiaries in the country.

“I’m hoping that this (cash assistance) will be given before Christmas,” Dar said.

At present, he said about P11 billion have been collected from RTL.

The DA chief also clarified that the cash assistance was different from the earlier loan assistance of P15,000 offered by the government to affected rice farmers under the Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Rice Farmers (SURE Aid Program).

The P1.5-billion SURE Aid Program is the government’s initial relief response to rice farmers who are tilling one hectare of land and below and are affected by the initial impact of lower palay prices. The one-time, zero-interest, no collateral loan of P15,000 is payable up to eight years.

(With a report from PNA)

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