Private sector urges implementation of safeguards on rice import

MANILA — The private sector has urged the government to enforce safeguards on rice importation amid the continuing decrease in the price of unhusked rice (palay) since the Rice Tariffication Law was implemented.

In a statement, the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture & Food Inc. (PCAFI) said it is explicitly indicated in Section 10 of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tarrification Law, that “in order to protect the Philippine rice industry from extreme price fluctuations, a special safeguard duty (SSG) on rice shall be imposed.”

“As such, it is incumbent upon the government to enforce the safeguards legal mandate,” it noted.

PCAFI president Danilo Fausto earlier said the government needs to protect local farmers who are being hit by the decline in rice prices due to liberalized importation, exportation and trading of rice.

“In case of extreme and abrupt fluctuation of prices, the Department of Agriculture (DA) should recommend to the Department of Finance (DOF) the imposition of a higher tariff,” Fausto said.

Under the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Rice Tariffication Law, special safeguard duty on rice will be imposed to protect the rice industry from sudden or extreme price fluctuations.

Similarly, the IRR also sets the guidelines on the allocation of the tariff revenues above PHP10 billion. This will be tapped to provide direct financial assistance to rice farmers adversely affected by the new rice import regime.

PCAFI director Elias Inciong said imposing the SSG will not cause prices in the domestic market to soar unreasonably since there is a 350,000 metric tons (MT) minimum access volume (MAV) of Philippines imports that are not covered by SSG duties.

Besides, the SSG is a flexible mechanism that is applied on a shipment basis if a price trigger is utilized, he stressed.

Once a shipment hits below trigger price, an SSG can immediately be applied. If international rice prices soar and local production is not enough, the government can suspend the application of the SSG, he added.

Agriculture William Dar earlier 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,” Dar said on the sidelines of the Philippines-India Trade Consultations held at Shangri-la Makati on Friday.

Dar said there would be a meeting of the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) this week to include discussion on the proposed general safeguard duty on rice import. Lilybeth Ison/PNA-