GROUPS on Tuesday renewed calls to repeal the Rice Tariffication Law passed in 2019, saying it has not brought down the retail price of the staple and failed to deliver on the supposed development support for local farmers.
Watch group Bantay Bigas and the farmers’ organization Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women led a petition signing at the Blumentritt Market in Manila to revoke Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.
“The proponents of the Rice Liberalization Law promised that rice prices would decrease to P25 per kilo but prices remained high and inaccessible for the poor consumers after four years,” Amihan Secretary-General Cathy Estavillo said in a statement.
“Markets do not sell P27 per kilo NFA (National Food Authority) rice anymore, that’s why they are forced to purchase the more expensive commercial rice,” Ms. Estavillo said in Filipino.
She added that the law has limited the NFA’s “mandate to buffer stocking and removed its function to regulate rice prices through subsidized pricing,” the groups said.
Local commercial rice prices currently range from P48 to P60 per kilogram (/kg), while imported commercial rice is at P46 to P58/kg, according to the Department of Agriculture.
The law liberalized rice imports but required importers to pay a 35% tariff on Southeast Asian grain. A percentage of the tariff collection, apart from a fixed annual P10-billion fund, are appropriated to the rice industry’s development.
The groups called on lawmakers to pass House Bill No. 405, or The Rice Industry Development Act, which was filed by Assistant Minority Leader Arlene D. Brosas, Deputy Minority Leader France L. Castro, and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel.
Under the proposed measure, rice farmers could avail production inputs such as seeds, fertilizer, and tools at discounted prices. The bill also aims to develop irrigation and post-harvest facilities for farmers.
It is pending at the House committee on agriculture and food since July last year.
“Flooding the local market with rice imports has been proven to be a flawed solution in addressing surging rice prices and food security. Both consumers and farmers will be in a deficit if the country continues to not be self-sufficient and self-reliant,” Ms. Estavillo said. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz