Following the recent signing of the rice tariffication law by President Rodrigo Duterte, the chairman of the House agriculture committee has encouraged the government’s executive branch to ensure provision of a “safety net for local farmers” in the form of a fund that would be used to improve the country’s rice sector.

“The 10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) was included in the law as a safety net to protect our own farmers and enable them to become more competitive. We should ensure that this will be set aside and spent for rice farmers’ welfare,” ANAC-IP party-list Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr. said.

“We should ensure that the P10 B RCEF will be set aside and spent for rice farmers’ welfare.” 

The newly-enacted law mandates a P10 billion RCEF for the provision of machinery and equipment, seed production, and training on rice farming. A portion of the fund would also be made available to farmers and cooperatives in the form of a credit facility with minimal interest and minimum collateral requirements.

“Due care should be applied in writing the law’s implementing rules and regulations so that the measure’s primary goals are met,” the legislator added as the executive department is tasked to craft the implementing rules and regulations of the new law.

The lawmaker also soothed fears that local farmers would be at the losing end with the passage of the legislation.

“We would be closely monitoring the law’s implementation so that its true purpose will be achieved—that of having a steady supply of low-priced rice and to enhance farmers’ lives,” he said.

“We would be closely monitoring the law’s implementation.”

The rice tariffication law seeks to liberalize rice importation by replacing quantitative import restrictions with tariffs.

Under the new law, private companies will be allowed to import rice once they secure the necessary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and pay 35 percent tariff for imports from Southeast Asian countries. Higher rates will be imposed for imports from states not members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The National Food Authority’s (NFA) importation role has also been removed, with the agency being restricted to maintaining a minimum rice inventory that will be sourced from local farmers.

Even if the President did not sign the erstwhile bill, it would have lapsed into law, a month after it was officially received by Malacañang on January 15. The bill was ratified by both the House of Representatives and Senate.

“This measure has been long-needed, and we hope that this law will kickstart the implementation of far-reaching reforms in our rice industry,” said Panganiban.

“President Duterte should be lauded for acknowledging the need to act on this measure, and for marking it a priority legislation,” he added.

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