House Committee on Agriculture Chair and ANAC-IP Rep. Jose T. Panganiban, Jr. on Thursday said he would convince his colleagues in both the Lower and Upper House to convene the bicameral conference committee on the rice tariffication bill as soon as possible to expedite the passage of the measure, which is expected to bring down the prices of rice by P7 per kilo.

This as the Senate voted 14-0 on Wednesday to approve their version of a bill seeking to lift restrictions on rice importation, whose passage was certified as urgent last month by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Pipilitin natin na i-convene agad ang bicameral conference committee and resolve the conflicts in both the House and Senate versions para maipasa natin ang bill before the end of the year,” said Panganiban, who was the bill’s sponsor in the House of Representatives.

The House version was approved August this year.

Besides lifting quantitative restrictions on rice imports, the bill will also set aside P10 billion to set up the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.

“Rest assured that we will reconcile the conflicting provisions.”

The fund will be used to provide assistance to the country’s rice farmers, including the development of inbred rice seeds, rice farm equipment, and skills enhancement.

Among the key provisions that need to be reconciled during the bicameral conference committee is the role of the National Food Authority (NFA) on rice importation, the solon said.

Under the version passed by the House of Representatives, the NFA would keep its authority as sole importer of rice. The Senate version, meanwhile, mandates that the NFA would no be longer allowed to import rice. Instead, the agency would be mandated to buy rice from local farmers who would be affected by the lifting of the QR on rice imports.

“The rice tariffication bill will improve the availability of rice in the country and help ease inflation.”

The legislator stressed the need to pass the rice tariffication bill to improve the availability of rice in the country and help ease inflation.

“With the rice tariffication law, the price of rice could be reduced up to P7 per kilo,” he said.

The measure is also expected to reduce inflation rate by 0.4 percentage points.

The Department of Agriculture meanwhile said that the bill could bring in at least P20 billion annually to the agriculture sector.

“Rest assured that we will reconcile the conflicting provisions and come up with a version that will be true to the intent of this legislation, which, in its core, is about ensuring we have an adequate supply of affordable rice.”



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