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Business

RTL review not a priority – Diokno

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
RTL review not a priority â Diokno
Department of Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno answered the questions from the media during a press briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday (July 6, 2022).
STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — The Marcos administration will not prioritize the review of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) as the measure continues to benefit the majority of Filipinos, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.

In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Marcos, who is also the concurrent agriculture chief, did not mention the review of the RTL as part of his legislative agenda.

The move for a review had been anticipated by agriculture stakeholders, since Marcos had favored a review of the law during the election campaign.

“The mere fact that it was not mentioned in the speech does not mean that it will remain. I just think revisiting the RTL is not a priority of this government,” Diokno told reporters. “Yes, it’s not a priority because after all, as I argued, it has been an effective tool against rising prices and inflation.”

A few weeks ago, Diokno said he would recommend to Marcos that the RTL be retained amid calls for its repeal or suspension.

For a long time, rice had been a major driver of inflation upticks prior to the RTL, which opened the floodgates for cheap rice imports.

Before the law’s enactment, rice was the single biggest contributor to inflation, but currently rice has a negative to minimal contribution to the headline rate.

“I think if you are running the government, you must always think of what’s the greatest good for the greatest number,” Diokno said.

“It may have some effects on our rice farmers, but they are also getting something from that. Part of the revenues from the RTL goes back to them so it’s a win-win,” he pointed out.

The law paved the way for the creation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which has an annual appropriation of P10 billion to finance programs for farm mechanization, seed development, propagation and promotion, credit assistance and extension services.

Any excess in tariff revenues is allocated for financial assistance to rice farmers, titling of agricultural rice lands, expanded crop insurance program and crop diversification program.

Last year, the government secured P18.9 billion from rice tariff collections. As of May this year, data showed the government has already accumulated P8.35 billion.

“It’s not actually a loss to the farmers, but it is a gain for almost all Filipinos, so it’s a good law. So on my part, I said, why change a good law,” Diokno said.

BENJAMIN DIOKNO

RTL

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