Cynthia Villar eyes P10-billion subsidy under rice tariffication bill
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - June 22, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senate agriculture committee chairperson Cynthia Villar plans to include a P10 billion government subsidy in the pending rice tariffication bill in a bid to boost the competitiveness of rice farmers.

Villar told reporters the P10-billion budget would help farmers "mechanize and help them produce inbred seeds to bring their income up to make them more competitive."

While the bill seeks to put collected tariffs from the importation of rice in a rice competitiveness enhancement fund, which will help provide technical support to farmers to make them more competitive, Villar said the tariff would not be immediately collected.

She emphasized the need to allot the P10 billion upfront to the rice competitiveness enchancement fund to be able to help local farmers immediately.

The proposed P10-billion subsidy is among the conditions the Senate is working on with regard to the rice tariffication bill, Villar said.

The bill, which amends the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996, will pave the way for the replacement of the quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports with tariff.  

Villar hopes to have the bill passed by the end of the year, but stressed they are still carefully reviewing it.

"We are thinking of how to pass a better law, so give us time because we are thinking of solutions to the problem it will cause. We are studying it carefully,"

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon earlier stressed the urgency of passing the rice tariffication bill by October before talks with the World Trade Organization(WTO) since it has been almost a year since the WTO's special waiver on rice expired. 

“By October, if we still cannot report any substantial progress on the action we have taken, then it will be difficult for us. Our trading partners might ask for further concessions. Worse, we might be sanctioned, but that’s the worst-case scenario,” Edillon said.

The WTO permitted the Philippines to impose the QR for more than two decades from 1995 until 2017.

Last February, Philippine officials who attended the WTO's committee on agriculture meeting in Geneva assured the organization that the country will have a new rice tariffication law by June.

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