Extension of lower tariffs on agricultural goods still possible

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
Extension of lower tariffs on agricultural goods still possible
A rice vendor inspects his products at a public market in Paco, Manila on September 6, 2023 after President Bongbong Marcos Jr. imposed a nationwide price ceiling for regular milled rice at P41 per kilo and P45 per kilo for well-milled rice.
STAR / Ernie Penaredondo

MANILA, Philippines — The possible extension of lower tariff rates on major agricultural commodities to ensure that inflation will revert to its downward trend and be back within target as scheduled remains up for consideration.

This, even as President Marcos last week rejected the economic team’s proposal to temporarily cut the tariff on imported rice.

In a briefing, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the tariff cut on rice has been ruled out “for this time.”

“The President really is the decision maker. Our role as Cabinet secretaries is to give the best advice based on the most recent information,” he said.

“And then once a decision is made, our next job is to implement, not to question the decision.”

The economic team earlier proposed that the current 35 percent rice import tariff be slashed temporarily to zero or just up to 10 percent, at the maximum.

While the proposal was rejected, there is still a pending review on the extension of lower tariffs on several agricultural commodities, rice included.

This is via the Executive Order 10 earlier signed by Marcos which subjected fresh, chilled or frozen swine meat, maize, rice, and coal to the most favored nation rates for 2023 after inflation spiked last year.

The measure, however, will expire by yearend.

The EO reduced rates of duty on fresh, chilled or frozen swine meat up to 25 percent, corn at 15 percent, rice at 35 percent, and coal at zero duty.

DOF Undersecretary and chief economist Zeno Abenoja said the review process would continue.

“Remember that the TC (Tariff Commission) is looking at the EO 10 so the process will continue,” Abenoja said.

“The President gets inputs from everyone, including the results of the consultation,” he said.

This week, the economic team and the Interagency Committee on Inflation and Market Outlook will meet to look at all the commodities affecting inflation.

Likewise, the government will also meet this week to discuss the lifting of the price cap on rice.

Headline inflation jumped to 5.3 percent in August from 4.7 percent in July, snapping six months of downtrend.

Inflation picked up anew amid more expensive food items following the recent typhoons, as well as higher transport costs due to oil price hikes.

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