Filipino farmers blame rice tariffication to gov’t, not WTO
The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) belied Senator Cynthia Villar’s statement that the government’s hands are tied regarding the tarrification.
To recall, Villar claimed that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has forced the government to remove its quantitative restrictions (QRs) on rice imports and replace them with tariffs. In several press releases, she was quoted saying that “now we can’t do anything because that’s our agreement with the WTO, which we cannot disregard”, referring to the lapse of our permission to extend the imposition of QRs until July 2017.
The FFF explained that the WTO allows member-countries to request exemption from certain rules under certain conditions.
In fact, the Philippines was allowed to retain its QR on rice from 1995 to 2012 on the basis of Annex 5 in the WTO rules which provides for “special treatment” for sensitive agricultural products such as rice. After this, the country was given a “waiver” through Article 28 on its obligation to tariffy rice until July 2017.
FFF National Manager Raul Montemayor said that although the Philippines entered into negotiations with countries that were not supportive of the request and eventually had to give concessions in exchange for their support, “there was nothing to stop us from asking for another waiver or extension after July 2017. But the government just decided not to negotiate anymore for another extension and just remove the QRs. So, it was not true that the WTO forced us to tariffy rice. It was our own decision”.
The FFF noted that while the WTO only required the country to remove QRs on rice and replace them with tariffs, Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law went overboard by unilaterally liberalizing the rice sector by removing the regulatory, supervisory, and price stabilization functions of the National Food Authority (NFA).
At the same time, it effectively gave free rein to the private sector to import unlimited volumes of rice at any time of the year with minimal requirements.