Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez has said the Duterte administration has finally broken the “stranglehold of inefficiency” in the domestic rice industry with the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law that aims to “revolutionize” the agriculture sector and slash the retail cost of the staple for the benefit of over 100 million consumers.
This law, which has liberalized imports of the grain, would be fully implemented by the administration as it pursues measures to stamp out smuggling and hoarding by unscrupulous traders to cushion the impact on both palay growers and rice consumers of the temporary “transition challenges” arising from the newly deregulated market, Dominguez said.
He made it clear that the administration would never return to the pre-rice tariffication period of unstable rice supplies, high retail prices, profiteering and low farm productivity.
“This is not the future of our agriculture. We should let the Rice Tariffication Law do its work and give the economy time to adjust for further easing of rice prices for all Filipinos and for support programs to lower the production costs of our farmers,” the DoF chief said.
“The Rice Tariffication Law will redound to the benefit of the Filipino people and our rice farmers. We will continue to do what is necessary to make rice available and affordable for all while making the country’s rice sector viable, efficient and globally competitive,” he added.
The Finance chief said the government is also carrying out a slew of measures to come to the aid of farmers affected by falling palay farmgate prices, including the grant of interest-free, easy-to-pay loans and unconditional cash transfers to rice growers.
“We are confident that these transition challenges are temporary. Nevertheless, the government is responding to them with decisiveness. There is no inclination to repeal, revise or suspend the Rice Tariffication Law. We are confident that this is the best means to move our agriculture forward and foster competitiveness,” he said at the 11th World Rice Conference held at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City.
The RTL or Republic Act 11203, has removed the quantitative restrictions on rice trading and imposed a minimum 35-percent tariff on imports of the grain.
Under this law, tariff collections from rice imports are mandated to go to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which would get P10 billion yearly to finance the long-overdue modernization of this rural sector by providing farmers with wider access to credit, agricultural training and extension work; and fresh funds for mechanization, high-quality seeds, fertilizers and other forms of assistance.
An Agriculture secretary during the former Corazon Aquino administration, Dominguez pointed out that in only seven months since it was implemented, the RTL has netted tariff revenue of P11.4 billion, which is already beyond the P10 billion earmarked per year for RCEF.