Farmers should directly benefit from tariff hike –Kiko
Former food security secretary Sen. Francis “kiko” Pangilinan expressed support on the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) proposal to increase the tariff on imported rice to aid the farmers affected by the Rice Tariffication Law.
DA secretary William Dar suggested the tariff hike as a means to further assist the farmers in an interview with the ANC days after Sure Aid –a one-time cash loan of P15,000 with zero interest–has been launched in some provinces. Pangilinan lauded the idea pointing out that the government has already earned a lot from the rice tariff.
“Our imports for the first half of 2019 already passed the threshold provided by law which resulted in over P9 billion in collected tariffs by the BoC (Bureau of Customs). The government earned a lot from tariffs, but it cannot be felt by the rice farmers. Earnings have no meaning if it does not reach all sectors of society. We need to change the system,” said Pangilinan.
Current tariff on imported rice is 35%, but economists say 70% is the rate fair to local rice farmers. Recently, farmers around the country have reported palay farmgate prices at as low as P7 per kilo, or P5 lower than the P12 per kilo production cost and only 100,000 out of the 2.1 million farmers nationwide will benefit from the cash loan under SureAid so it wouldn’t be enough.
“We need to find all possible solution to help our farmers. There should be immediate assistance, as well as long-term reforms to fix the implementation of rice liberalization. Implementation where no one is taken advantage of,” Pangilinan said.
Last Thursday, the Liberal Party president filed a joint resolution to amend the Rice Tariffication Law and allow a P13-billion immediate cash assistance to rice farmers. He pointed to two possible sources of direct cash transfers to rice farmers: the fund balance of P4 billion of the P10 billion appropriated for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) under the unprogrammed appropriations of the 2019 national budget; and the P9.19 billion collected as tariff revenues from rice importation from 5 March 2019 to 31 August 2019.
Liberal Party lawmakers already filed the counterpart resolution at the House of Representatives, calling for all to unite for the immediate passage of the resolution.
Aside from immediate cash assistance and the increase in the current rice tariff, Pangilinan called on Filipino consumers to ask and buy local rice from their suki. He also proposed several legislative fixes, including the imposition of additional duties and cash-for-work programs of government.
Filipino rice farmers produce most (about 12 million tons) of the rice consumed in the country. Before the law, the maximum rice importation was just a small portion (1 to 1.8 million tons) of the rice Filipinos eat.
With 2.5 million tons of rice already imported this year and flooding the market, the palay of Filipino rice farmers in parts of the country are suffering from low selling price of their produce.