PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign into law soon the rice tariffication bill, a measure certified as urgent by the chief executive, Malacañang said yesterday.
“It has been submitted to the Office of the President. I suppose it will be signed anytime,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a news conference.
The bill aims to lift quantitative restrictions on rice and allow private traders to import the commodity from countries of their choice.
Under the bill, the private sector will be allowed to import rice as long as they have secured a phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and paid the 35 percent tariff for shipments from neighbors in Southeast Asia.
It will earmark P10 billion for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement fund, P5 billion of which will be allotted to farm mechanization and P3 billion to seedlings. The fund intends to ensure that rice imports won’t drown out the agriculture sector and rob farmers of their livelihood.
In endorsing the bill, Duterte told Congress about the “urgent need to improve availability of rice in the country, prevent artificial rice shortage, reduce the prices of rice in the market and curtail the prevalence of corruption and cartel domination in the rice industry.”
Government-subsidized rice will be out of the market once the law is in place as it will remove the power of the National Food Authority (NFA) to import and distribute cheaper rice.
By January, at least 500,000 metric tons of imported NFA rice will arrive in the country, but the supply will only last until March 2019, according to the government.
Told about potential backlash from consumers, Panelo said liberalization in the rice market will foster competition.
“Magpapababaan sila ng presyo otherwise di sila bibili. Kaya nga law of supply and demand yan,” Panelo said.