Sen. Cynthia Villar said Republic Act 11203 mandates several measures to help farmers become competitive using revenues from the 35 percent tariff collected on rice imports.
Edd Gumban/File
Agencies face legal sanctions if rice tariffication fails
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - April 29, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) and other agencies tasked to carry out the Rice Tariffication Law may face legal sanctions if they fail to fully implement its provisions, Sen. Cynthia Villar has warned.

Villar said Republic Act 11203 mandates several measures to help farmers become competitive using revenues from the 35 percent tariff collected on rice imports.

Villar noted the lingering opposition from officials of the DA and the National Food Authority (NFA) against the law.

The landmark law, signed by President Duterte last February, does away with the quantitative restrictions on rice imports and instead imposes a 35 percent tariff on those imported from ASEAN countries. 

“I will closely monitor the disbursement of the P10 billion budget (of RA 11203). I will make sure that what is provided for in the law, and what is you are entitled to, it will go to you,” Villar told the farmers, who graduated from training at the Villar-Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance in Las Piñas on Friday.

“If they (officials) will not do their jobs, I myself will sue them. I’m now looking for lawyers to file the case if that happens,” she said.

RA 11203 creates the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which is on top of the huge annual budget of the DA, to provide farmers with agricultural equipment, including tractors and harvesters; education and technology training, to include development of inbred seeds.

The RCEF also includes an annual funding of P1 billion to be lodged in the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines to be extended as interest-free loans directly to farmers.

Villar said full and swift implementation of the law will reduce poverty as most of the country’s poor families come from the agricultural sector.

The law directly tasks the Philippine Rice Research Institute, Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, among others to strictly implement the provisions to help farmers, she pointed out.

Villar cited the DA’s insistence on using hybrid seeds when the law mandates to help farmers grow or develop inbred seeds to be self-reliant.

“We want the empowerment of farmers. We don’t want farmers to be just waiting for subsidies that would not come at all. We have waited for them for 22 years, were they able to do something for you?” Villar remarked.

The senator was referring to the 22 years given to the Philippines to become competitive in rice production by the World Trade Organization before importation of the grain will be liberalized under an agreement signed in 1995.

Villar lamented Vietnam overtook the Philippines in terms of volume and price of rice when the country was already planting the grain while its neighbor was ravaged by war.

Villar said Filipino farmers have nothing to fear from the rice tariffication law because of the RCEF, adding 93 percent of the country’s needs for the grain is already locally produced.

The law, through the RCEF, will greatly help reduce costs and improve production of rice farmers until such time there will be almost no need for imports, Villar said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the economic affairs committee, earlier warned Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol against delaying or derailing the implementation of the law, which he tried to block when it was still being deliberated in Congress.

Gatchalian defended the law as a major solution to the unstable price and supply of rice in the country amid the strong opposition of Piñol and the NFA.

He said DA and NFA officials have been “countering and countering” the Rice Tariffication Bill for a long time but “have not presented any credible solution.”

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